Virtual learning rollout details shared

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District administrators shared with Superintendent Dana Monogue details about how the first week of online instruction went for students and staff as part of their weekly meeting on Monday, April 6.

Staff had two days -- March 30 and 31 -- to do trainings to prepare for online instruction and develop content to upload to the three platforms the District is using for virtual learning. Students were able to spend those two days getting logged in and checking out the platform specific to their grade before officially beginning online instruction on Wednesday, April 1.

Director of Curriculum, Assessment and 4K MaryBeth Paulisse noted there was lots of celebrations and an incredible amount of excitement by students and 4K staff interacting in Seesaw platform. She said a number of staff and families raved about the quality activities available. Paulisse noted a few families misunderstand the intent of the first few days of online instruction and she is working to provide a process for appropriate feedback from families.

Some parents of elementary students wanted immediate learning but were reminded the first 10 days are about making reconnections with children, Director of Elementary Education Rainey Briggs said. He noted that while some families complained about slow internet connections or disruption to services that District teachers were not experiencing issues. Monogue added she has heard many of the first-day challenges had to do with network challenges at families' homes.

Briggs also shared that he has meetings scheduled for this week with instructional coaches and the COVID learning team to look ahead and see what online instruction looks like moving forward. He wants the groups to pay particular attention to children who aren't involved as much as we want or need.

Director of Secondary Education Laura Love noted the vast majority of feedback from families has been positive. She was especially complimentary of the design and support team, which she indicated is "doing an amazing job.'' She also believes the District is getting to the point where glitches should be resolved on same day as MCPASD finds out about them. She also acknowledge another challenge is connecting with those students who aren't signing in anywhere with follow-up needed but not in a way that it seems like staff are hounding students.

Monogue reminded the team complaints may rise from families as anxiety rises and COVID-19 continues to impact our community. She also stressed it is important to remember the District can't please everyone.

Assistant Superintendent of Operations Lori Ames said she and her staff continue to analyze the impact on the current and next year's budget. She also plans to look at which essential staff still need to work on site and those that do remain the District will try to get them additional safety equipment, such as gloves and masks.

The technology department is still working to create a system that responds to the needs of families and staff while keeping their staff safe, director Jim Blodgett said. He noted his department is still busy getting Pope Farm Elementary School ready and is also still responding to Help Desk requests from students and staff. He said a future concern is getting Chromebooks back from students and families once schools re-open but acknowledged it may take longer than he would prefer to get the more than 2,500 devices returned.

Director of Employee Services Tabatha Gundrum said her department is still working on staff projections for 2020-21 with more meetings scheduled for this week. She is excited about the new online interview tool that the elementary team will pilot and thinks it will shorten the amount of time needed on this process.

She shared that some staff have expressed concerns about where the District is in the hiring process this year, but Gundrum said it is a very similar timeline to previous years. She noted more than 20 staff members have already been hired for Pope Farm. Briggs noted he is working with Pope Farm principal Jessica Taylor to prioritize positions that need to be hired sooner.

Director of Finance and Operations Erin Wheeler said her department hopes to make a decision this week on the platform that will be used for meals and activities payments by families, noting they are "two monumental programs that involve every stakeholder in the District.'' She also said her department is determining how refunds will work.

The District Services Team then spent 30 minutes discussing budget assumptions for 2020-21. They reviewed staffing adds at Pope Farm and MHS that were covered by the operational referendum that was approved in November 2018. They also reviewed potential restructures and reallocations for next school year.