School Board Chooses Staggered Day Schedule, Will Also Offer Virtual School For All Grades & Students
Staggered Means Two Days At School, Three Days Of Virtual Learning
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
The Edmonson County School Board voted tonight at the monthly board meeting to adopt a staggered schedule for students that choose to attend in-person classes for the 2020-21 school year.
In Brian Alexander's first meeting as Superintendent of Schools, he and board members answered questions from parents and guardians in attendance who addressed the board with some concerns.
A staggered schedule means that half the students will attend in-person classes on Mondays and Wednesdays while the other half attend Tuesdays and Thursdays. On the off days, students will participate in virtual learning, which was described by Mr. Alexander as "something much different that NTI work." All Fridays will be virtual learning days.
Before the vote, Alexander laid out the options for the upcoming year, which included staggered days, virtual school for all students in all grades, and homeschooling, which is not the same as virtual learning.
"I want you understand, these two are not the same," he said to the crowd. "If you participate in our virtual learning, it will be our curriculum and we'll have all that set up. We will also be able to provide school food options. Home schooling will be up to the parent or guardian to follow your own curriculum and take care of those things yourselves."
Alexander said that the school system has spent over $230K for devices available to students that choose virtual learning so that they have proper equipment to download and upload assignments and information. He also said the board is working on providing internet hot spot options at some school parking lots for students that live in areas where internet service is unreliable. This would at least allow students the capability of downloading and uploading assignments.
When attendees were allowed to speak, one of the first parents with a question asked the board if the situation could possibly change to a regular 5-day school week after the year began.
"Absolutely," said Alexander. "This is the definition of a fluid situation and we have been preparing for constant change. We'll do what's best for our kids, no matter what."
In response, the parent replied, "Yes, I believe that."
Some of the other questions asked and covered at tonight's meeting involved virtual school combined with extra-curricular activities, special education and special need students, and the process of riding school buses.
Alexander said that any student learning through virtual study can participate in any extra-curricular or sport but that student would still be expected to attend any and all practices and team/organization activities, and be responsible for transportation getting there and back.
He also noted that special education and special needs students would be taken care of according to whatever needs they had, to the best of the ability of the school system.
School buses are a bit more complicated. Transportation Director Lannie Deweese described the process for riding school buses as current guidelines require.
Students will have their temperature taken before entering the bus. They will be given hand sanitizer, and masks must be worn on the bus at all times. There will be two students per seat. One bus driver asked if drivers would be made aware in the event a rider tests positive for the virus. Deweese said yes because the driver will become of the contact tracing process should that occur.
Other board members spoke on different points during the very civil discussion.
"This school year won't be like how school ended up in the spring," said board member Alex Ulm, to which all board members nodded in agreement. "I think we all can agree that what we dealt with in the spring isn't the type of learning we want for our kids."
He also noted why he was in favor of a late school start.
"I think some of the schools that are starting early will see some mistakes," Ulm said. "I think it's a great opportunity for us to learn from those mistakes and make adjustments as needed."
Alexander said in March, the school system had 72 hours to put a virtual school program in place, which was basically nothing more than NTI work.
"NTI work is intended for a couple of snow days, not this," he said. "Our virtual learning will not be like the NTI work.
The school board also voted to adopt the 2020-21 school calendar, which has a start date of September 8th for students, August 20th for teachers, and the school year ending on May 26th.
There will be no Fall Break, but Thanksgiving and Christmas will see the normal days off, as well as spring break April 5th-9th. The day will be 25 minutes longer per day. Brownsville schools would start at 7:48am with dismissal at 3pm. Kyrock and SEES would begin at 7:45am and would dismiss 25 mins later than usual.
After the meeting, Mr. Alexander spoke to us with more details on the staggered schedule.
"First, we'll make sure that all students from the same households will attend schools on the same days. We'll then divide the rest of the students equally so that the number of students at school will allow kids to take off their masks during the day. If we attend 5 days per week right now, everyone has to wear a mask all day, with pretty much no exceptions. Masks can distract kids from learning so we want to provide opportunities around that when safe."
Mr. Alexander said that the number one goal is student safety.
"We want our kids to be safe, happy, and comfortable.The better environment we can provide, then the better chance they'll have to learn. No plan is perfect in this situation and we understand not everyone will be happy, but we feel like these are the best options for the most amount of students in Edmonson County Schools."