Summit school board shares concerns about remote learning, start date
FRISCO — For 5 1/2 hours on Thursday, July 30, the Summit School District board discussed the district’s “return to learn” plan, which proposes a hybrid model for the start of school.
At the end of the meeting, the board gave its approval of the district’s current plan, which has a different start date for each age group. The goal of the delayed start is to give teachers time for professional development to prepare for the new year, Superintendent Marion Smith Jr. said. The start dates are as follows:
- Sixth through 12th grade will start Aug. 26 with in-person learning two days per week and alternating schedules for each cohort. The other three days will be online learning.
- First through fifth grade will start Aug. 27 with in-person days on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. The students will be online on Wednesdays.
- Pre-K and kindergarten will start Aug. 31 with four in-person days a week. Kindergarten will be in person every day but Wednesdays, when the students will be doing online learning at home. The district was not specific on what days the pre-K students will be in person.
Over 300 people logged on to the meeting Thursday night to hear the board’s discussion about the plan, which could change as the pandemic develops.
“As a district, we stand in a place of readiness, and we stand in a place of agility so that we can continue to provide whatever structures we need and consistency among so many unknowns,” Smith said.
Although the district leadership team presented a detailed plan, it was clear the board and community are anxious about the new school year.
While the board ultimately decided the current start date is the best option for the district, some board members thought the district should delay an additional week to give teachers more time to prepare.
“What happens when we open too early and all of a sudden we shut down our whole county,” board Director Consuelo Redhorse said. “This is on us. We’re affecting thousands of children, and that’s what, ultimately, it’s about. … I cannot honestly say 100% that starting school at the time we’re planning on it is the right choice.”
Board President Kate Hudnut and members Gloria Quintero and Isabel Rodriguez agreed with Redhorse that the current start date felt too soon. However, the decision ultimately came down to cost. Chief Financial Officer Kara Drake estimated moving the start date would cost about $250,000 in teacher pay per day, which the board couldn’t justify.
The district’s remote learning plan was another major point of concern at the meeting.
According to a district survey, 12% of families plan to have their student go online-only for the entire school year. Right now, the district’s plan is to have those students learn through a third-party platform called Edgenuity. While the district is working on having some Summit teachers collaborate on the platform, the majority of instruction will be done by Edgenuity teachers, Chief Learning Officer Mary Kay Dore said.
Some parents weren’t pleased with the district’s plan.
“What we experienced in the spring with remote education was frankly harrowing,” parent Clair Sullivan said. “We’ve heard not a lot tonight about what that 100% remote situation will look like.”
Dore said the district would be sending out a survey for parents who would like the remote learning option. Finalized information on how remote learning will work is set to be released Aug. 11. At the end of the meeting, the board gave direction to the district to have a more developed remote learning plan.
“If we don’t have a knock-it-out-of-the-park remote plan, we’ve got families that we’re going to lose,” Hudnut said.
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