Screen shot of Board members using Zoom for Nov. 23rd meeting

Tuesday, November 24, 2020 - 12:26pm

The Board of Education unanimously approved administration's recommendation to bring forward a fully-developed half-day blended model at the elementary level at a special meeting on Monday, Nov. 23.

Board president Annette Ashley presided over the meeting at the District Services Center, while other Board members participated remotely. The School Board has been meeting virtually since mid-March.

The half-day blended model will be voted on at the regular meeting on Dec. 7. The School Board also plans to discuss if and when school buildings might reopen for District students.

Superintendent Dana Monogue reminded members that administrators recommended 2-1-2 blended model at meeting on Nov. 16. Members expressed concerns and requested a survey of elementary staff regarding their preference between a half-day and 2-1-2 models. About 350 elementary staff participated in the survey, which was available for two days last week, and more than two-thirds favored the half-day model. Deputy Superintendent Sherri Cyra noted participation was very high and thanked elementary principals for their efforts to have staff take the survey.

Monogue noted administration is confident it can address concerns related to transportation and nutrition service challenges with the half-day model. However, administrators don't believe that model can work at the secondary level so if students in grades 5-12 return to school buildings at some point in the 2020-21 school year elementary students would  need to change to a 2-1-2 model.

Deputy Superintendent Sherri Cyra reviewed a sample half-day schedule that she and Director of Elementary Education Rainey Briggs prepared. She noted they consulted other area districts using a half-day model for schedule ideas. Briggs will work with principals and instructional coaches on more details. Cyra also noted the schedule will vary by grade and school.

Students who attend in the morning would be in school from 7:45 to 10:15 a.m., while students who attend in the afternoon would be in school from 12:15 to 2:45 p.m. The plan is to spread out the arrival and departure of students to limit possible exposure. Students in the morning would eat breakfast in their classroom, while they would take a bag lunch home. Students in the afternoon would eat lunch in their classroom and take a breakfast for the next morning home with them.

Cyra noted students would have about 45 minutes of literacy, while reading and writing lessons would alternate. Math lessons would run daily for 60 minutes. A movement break will be included in the daily schedule.

Cyra noted the 4K program would start earlier and students at that level would ride the bus with elementary students in a half-day model. Wednesdays would continue as asynchronous learning days with no live teaching. Students would also have asynchronous learning -- which would include independent work, encore work and science and social studies -- during the time they aren't in school buildings.

Content for asynchronous learning will need to be developed and the District is determining how to be more efficient and who can work on the asynchronous learning to lighten the load on grade-level teachers, Cyra said.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Lori Ames noted the nutrition services program will need to substantially change to a school-site pick-up model, which may create additional hardships for the District's most marginalized families. She noted bus transportation would not be possible if the elementary level remained in a half-day model and the secondary used a 2-1-2 model if all students are able to return to school buildings at some point in 2020-21.

Members asked questions and offered feedback for about 30 minutes. The School Board did ask if families would be able to request a morning or afternoon session for their child. Cyra explained that would not be possible. noted cohorts have already been established as it was necessary to complete in early September to balance the high school schedule. Cyra said one area district did take requests and recommended MCPASD not do so as courses and classrooms ended up not having similar numbers of students.

Families of elementary students, however, will be allowed to request an instructional model change from Universal to Fully Virtual or Fully Virtual to Universal once the School Board has determined when students at that level will return to school buildings, Cyra said. She reminded the Board this will require shifts in staffing and sections.