Just a short while ago, our School Board approved a return to school plan for September 8 that will have most of our students beginning the new year with virtual instruction. There will be provisions for students who do not have internet access or whose internet access is not adequate for virtual learning. These students, along with some who have special needs and some who are English Learners, will be able to come into schools to work with learning coaches in accessing virtual instruction assignments.
The safety of students, families and staff, together with a commitment to equity and quality of instruction, were the standards the School Board used in making their decision. Today’s decision applies to the first nine weeks of our new school year, from September 8 through November 6. I will be making a recommendation to the Board for the model we will use for the second nine weeks that begins on November 9.
We are expecting between 1,000 and 1,500 students will be in our schools in September. These students will be supported by teachers who volunteer to serve. Work schedules will be modified for classified employees to continue to allow online work from home, but there will be a need for a limited number of staff to follow their normal in-person work schedule.
Employees will be contacted by their principal or supervisor in the near future regarding work schedules.
Our virtual instruction in September will differ significantly from that offered this past spring. Unlike the spring, we now have the benefit of extensive planning time for our educators that will include professional development on virtual strategies and techniques. Instruction will include specific class schedules for students, engaging and meaningful content, and an emphasis on meaningful assessments of student performance and progress.
In addition to the option of coming into their school to complete online assignments, students without adequate home internet access will be able to have assignments delivered to them at home in a paper format or a recorded video. The division also can provide hotspot devices to homes to connect them to local Wi-Fi providers. It also is possible that families without adequate internet service or with financial needs could participate in a Comcast program that would provide broadband service where available. Our school division would pay for the reduced costs of this service.
The School Board’s decision supports the feedback we received in surveys from parents and employees and the guidance of public health experts. For more information, please visit our Return to School website, where the division will soon publish a news release and post a copy of the presentation that was made to the Board this afternoon.
We will continue to work closely with our local health department in monitoring COVID-19 cases and the community spread of this illness, and we will notify you as soon as possible about any changes to our operational plans.
The thousands of ideas, suggestions and questions we received from our parents and employees have been extraordinarily helpful. For your reference, our Return to School website contains the most up-to-date information on community and employee resources around COVID-19, the division’s health and safety practices, information on instructional plans and school bus transportation, and more.
Please stay safe.
Matthew S. Haas, Ed.D.