“One thing I won’t stress enough; obviously, everything is fluid right now,” said Superintendent Sprinkles as he opened up his comments to the Board on the school district’s re-entry plan for August.
Sprinkles said that since first meeting with Education Commissioner Kevin Brown for weekly updates, Brown could not stress enough to have multiple options planned for come August. That was March, and now with the start of school just under a month away, Sprinkles said the plan “to straight up re-entry like we normally would is pretty obvious now not possible due to the numbers of COVID-19 cases.
Sprinkles shared with the Board the various scenarios that the district’s workgroup discussed previously. An A/B schedule for students, referred to as Learning@School, where students would attend either on an A schedule of Monday and Tuesday or a B schedule of Thursday and Friday. Learning@Home would not be like NTI of the past, it will offer prepared digital lessons using a device with or without Internet.
“Beginning next week our teachers will develop twenty days of lesson plans for students and have them loaded online, ready to go,” explained Sprinkles. “Then, they will continue to develop lesson plans so that two weeks of content is always available for students whether they are at school or at home.” Sprinkles explained that scenarios from the teacher being quarantined due to COVID-19 or an entire class as a precautionary measure, learning could easily shift to the home if that was the case with no loss in instruction.
“Teachers are receiving Chromebooks so they will have the same technology that the students will be using, ensuring that all lessons are accessible for the devices,” said Sprinkles. “We will start the deployment of Chromebooks for students with those who are learning at home and have no device.
“Due to the COVID-19 shutdown of many manufacturing plants, and the rush orders of devices across the world, several of our units are on backorder until later this fall. When we receive those we will ensure that all students have access to a device.”
For students that are late evening learners, they will have access to technical support. The Board approved four, four hour after hour technology positions that will be on call for student and teacher questions. “Whether it is logging in to a site or remotely looking at the device, they will be able to help students of the evenings.”
Teachers are receiving help through technology learning coach positions approved by the Board. Each school will have a teacher identified as the coach, which will be the go to person to find answers and suggestions on making device-based learning engaging and relevant to student learning and their needs.
Sprinkles also shared with the Board the bigger picture of ensuring teachers are in the buildings for those learning at school. “We had these previously and now we want to bring them back, fifteen full time substitutes, one time, for 2020, 2021,” said Sprinkles. He explained to the Board that the teachers would be assigned to specific schools, so when a substitute is needed, there is already one in the building available. The concern came after discussing contact tracing and how a typical sub could potentially be in four different buildings a week with the A and B scenario.
A change to the academic calendar, the second for the Board, was discussed now that the Daniel Boone Festival is cancelled. With the district’s late start, and the festival usually representing a fall break, the proposal to the Board was to eliminate the fall break in October and add two additional off days to the week of Thanksgiving, creating a full week off and a later fall break. The Board unanimously approved the decision with board members discussing how important it will be to get as much instruction completed prior to later in the year when other illnesses and weather start becoming factors.
A lack of being able to purchase needed PPE and nursing supplies locally led the Superintendent to ask the Board to issue a bid for supplies. The bid is for any and all PPE, nursing and health supplies. Information about the bid and procedures for submitting a bid can be obtained by contacting Central Office.
Employee health rounded out the conversation about COVID-19. Superintendent Sprinkles requested that Board members add ten additional sick leave days to full time employees for COVID-19 for this year only. Discussion occurred amongst members how the employee, family members, and others could accumulate the need for additional paid time off due to quarantine guidelines that are out of their control during the pandemic. Board chairman Jimmy Hendrickson made the motion, noting that the sick leave was one time only and was for COVID-19 reasons only. The vote was unanimous.
Sprinkles ended by saying, “we’ll begin on day number one monitoring, looking at how we can work things out to get to the point where we are able to bring students in for five days a week.”
The Board approved the overall re-entry plan as an item on their agenda for the evening. Now approved, the district will begin using targeted messaging and communication to explain student learning options. School is set to begin August 24.