Summit schools superintendent, board look ahead to 2020-21 school year possibilities
Discussion includes likelihood of 'blended-learning formats'
DILLON — At Thursday’s virtual Zoom video-conference Summit School District school board meeting, outgoing superintendent Kerry Buhler communicated the first thoughts and steps the district is putting together regarding potentially returning to the classroom in some form or fashion for the 2020-21 school year amid the novel coronavirus pandemic
As part of her superintendent’s update, Buhler said a letter would go out on Friday, May 29, to parents regarding a big picture overview of possibilities and considerations for next school year. This “restart guide,” as Buhler called it, includes a survey the district would like for parents to complete by Sunday night, May 31.
Buhler said principals at schools throughout the district will meet this coming week with teams within their schools to talk about coming back to school.
“What that might look like, talking about options such as blended-learning formats, and what kinds of needs do people need to be better instructional teachers and how to meet the needs of all of our kids,” Buhler said.
Buhler said across the county there is a “strong desire” to have education situations for kids across all grades look similar because, in many cases, many families may have children of different ages.
“That will be almost virtually impossible,” Buhler said.
Buhler, who will be ending her term in the position at the end of June when superintendent-elect Marion Smith Jr. starts his time in the position, said the district plans to look at frameworks for next school year developed by the district, principals and school teams, along with survey feedback from parents and teachers between June 12-15.
In that same time span, the district hopes to share those frameworks. Buhler added things could change with any changed guidelines from the state or county levels.
“Then, honestly, all the way to the beginning of August this work will continue,” Buhler said.
Buhler said the district’s “fluid plans” will be released between July 27 and Aug. 7 as well as more details on how the start of the district’s new school year will commence.
The superintendent also said the district is currently in the midst of ordering personal protection equipment for the district, including 80 gallons of hand sanitizer, in all totaling $60,000. She said the district may be able to have 75% of that expense reimbursed through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The term Buhler continued to use on Thursday was “blended-approach.” As part of that, Buhler mentioned that school transportation could pose one of the bigger challenges, as the county’s current capacity rule for public transportation vehicles could potentially mean a limit of 15 students on a bus.
“When we get to know what our structures and options are for blended learning,” Buhler said, “we are going to work fast and furious with principals in the next couple of weeks to know what are some of the instructional options, what are the platforms.”
During Buhler’s presentation, the discussion also included potentially prioritizing in-person, classroom schooling time for younger students as, for example, Kindergarten students need more face-to-face learning.
Buhler added another big part of this summer’s district preparation will be professional development for teachers. The superintendent said staff will need to be able to “turn on a dime,” during the school year.
“You might be an in-school teacher one week and then maybe we have to shut down 72 hours for cleaning and then you’re hopping to online,” said Buhler.
Buhler also mentioned the possibility of catering education to specific students who may prefer more traditional paperwork and textbook education over laptops, even at home.
“This is going to be a moving target all the time,” Buhler said. “This work is not going to ever stop. I think we are going to learn a lot. We are going to think about how kids learn differently. And we are going to think about where teachers are really strong in their way to provide instruction and learning and ways teachers need a lot of support — families, kids and all of that.”
“We will work ahead for whatever option we will have when we come back,” Buhler said, “and we see where we are at with the public health policy and what models we can go with in July and August.”
During Thursday’s meeting, the school board also approved changing from quarters to trimesters for elementary schools across the county. The trimesters would begin with the first trimester starting Aug. 20-27 before ending on Nov. 13, followed by the end of the second trimester on Feb. 19 and the end of the third trimester on June 2.
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As the Summit School District prepares for all online instruction, adults are focusing their attention on the health and well-being of the students.