Board votes for no changes to high schools

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The Board of Education voted to have students in grades 9-12 in the Universal instructional model remain in a blended model through the remainder of the 2020-21 school year at its regular meeting at Kromrey Middle School on Monday, March 22.

High school principals  Peg Shoemaker (MHS) and Jill Gurtner (CSCS) attended the meeting in-personi and presented and answered questions. Middle school principals Dom Ricks (Kromrey) and Ken Metz (Glacier Creek) along with Director of Secondary Education Laura Love, Director of Student Services Barb Buffington and Health Services coordinator Danielle Krbecek also attended.

Superintendent Dana Monogue reminded the Board the secondary administrative team recommended at the March 8 meeting that the schools remain in a blended learning model through the end of the school year. She reviewed many of the ways the pandemic has impacted students and staff at the secondary level and the multiple factors to consider when deciding if students should attend in-person four days a week.

Monogue also noted the District is fully committed to being open full-time for all grade levels at the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Shoemaker noted music, labs and physical education classes would face challenges with more students at MHS. Music and choral classes can have up to 55 students in one section and their old spaces are now under construction so MHS is making due with classrooms and the new Black Box, which is also being used for storage. PE classes would have up to 60 students with less space because some gym space will be used for lunch, she said.

Gurtner noted cohorting of students into a single classroom isn't possible at the secondary level and it is likely more students will need to quarantine and contact tracing will increase if come back four days a week. She added students and staff are doing a good job of wearing face coverings and practicing good hand hygiene.

The principals noted there is a greater risk of transmission during lunch periods. The schools will have students eat outdoors on days when the weather permits. Optimal distancing at the middle school levels is not possible and having students face the same direction will be difficult, too. Round tables are an issue at every level.

Shoemaker noted the Performing Arts Center can't be used for lunch as three advisory classes are currently using it during that time. She estimated nearly 440 combined seats are available in the concourse, cafeteria and varsity gym for lunch and the school's lunch tracker app shows about 40 percent (or 400 students) in Cohort 1 and another 400 in Cohort 2 are eating in the school. Students will be discouraged from having conversations and seating can be assigned to help with contact tracing, the principals said.

Concurrent teaching instruction would still be needed for students who are in quarantine or isolated. Less individual instruction will likely occur with more students. Some larger classes may need to be split into two groups resulting in some students attending virtually even while at school. Metz and Ricks noted middle school band and orchestra would access courses virtually on a very limited basis on Wednesdays.

Shoemaker noted the MHS construction project means additional congestion in the hallways, no extra classrooms, and fewer parking spaces available in lots.

Monogue then reviewed a summary of benefits and challenges associated with an increase to in-person learning at the secondary level. The District indicated there were three options to consider: remain in blended model, increase to four days of in-person instruction, or go to four half-days of in-person instruction with students leaving before lunch.

Members asked questions throughout and after the presentation and offered feedback.

The presentation is available on the District website on the BOE Meeting Presentation page.