WELLSBORO — Parents who will be choosing remote or online learning options for their children are asked to contact their child’s school by tomorrow, Aug. 7.
At a special meeting following the Aug. 4 work session, the board approved the Continuity of Education plan. All students, unless their parents notify the school, will be enrolled in Option 1, a five-day-a-week, in-school option.
Parents may also choose to enroll their child in Option 2, a remote learning module that will be taught by the same teacher and mirror learning in the classroom setting, or Option 3, the Wellsboro Online Academy. Parents may also choose to homeschool or enroll in a cyber charter school.
The idea, said Superintendent Dr. Brenda Freeman, is to allow a smooth transition between the classroom and remote learning if a student is ill or if a school or county is closed due to a coronavirus outbreak. With the online academy, classes may be taught be a different teacher than other students in the same grade and the curriculum may vary.
“I think we’re ready to open up school,” said Freeman. “I cannot stress enough that we are a normal school and, in any normal school year, have illness. We cannot guarantee your child will not become ill.”
The board discussed at length the purpose of Flex Fridays. High school students would have four days of classroom settings and on Friday there would be no instruction on new material. Instead, students will work in their homeroom on assignments, on special projects, research or receive additional tutoring. It will also give teachers extra time for remote learners, said Freeman.
Board members expressed concerns that the purpose of the day is unclear, that teachers could better assist students in regular classroom settings and that it could lead to lower quality of learning.
“Sometimes a hybrid doesn’t do anything real well and I see Friday is not exactly conducive to staff for planning, and not for students to get assistance,” said director Tracy Doughtie. “I feel like it’s a missed opportunity to not do any one of those really well.”
High school English teacher Jill Gastrock messaged the board, “I would prefer to meet with my scheduled block classes (not some random group). I can be more productive with my classes as a group on Friday.”
Freeman said the plan could be revised. It is also possible, she said, that more students may enroll in remote learning, which could change the plan to a hybrid model where students both attend schools and do remote learning.
The plan also places an extra burden on teachers, who must develop two ways to deliver the course material to students in the class and remotely, said Freeman.
Summing up the evening, director Sue Judlin noted that all the district’s efforts may be for nothing if the community doesn’t do its part.
“We can put every mitigating factor into play, but if people don’t wear their mask, if they don’t social distance, it puts everything at risk,” said Judlin. “If you want fall sports, if you want in-school instruction, the community has to come together to prevent the spread of disease or we won’t have a choice.”