Yellow Springs Schools to start academic year online
- Published: July 25, 2020
In a specially called online meeting Saturday morning, July 25, the Yellow Springs school board recognized the continuing health risks of the COVID-19 pandemic and unanimously approved a plan to restart the 2020–21 academic year with all students receiving online instruction presented by district teachers.
The new plan, which extends through the first quarter, pulls back from the district’s initial intention announced July 1 to physically return to the classroom full time when the new year begins Aug. 27.
“So much has changed with the health conditions in Ohio and the country,” Superintendent Terri Holden told the board Saturday in recommending the action.
Holden had notified district families July 15 that a full-time return no longer seemed appropriate, and she asked them to share their preference for one of three possible pathways: adopting a hybrid approach that combines in-person and online instruction, going online through a third-party service or going fully online with local teachers. The deadline for responding was 5 p.m. Friday, July 24, following a virtual town hall meeting Monday, July 20, in which the superintendent addressed questions about the possible plans.
Holden said Saturday that responses to that query as well as the number of teachers and staff who are most at risk for contracting the disease, or are responsible for the care of a medically vulnerable person, contributed to her recommendation for 100% online instruction for now.
Without giving the total number of respondents, she said that 51.8% of responding families chose the fully online option with local teachers, 44.3% chose the hybrid plan and 3.9% chose the online option through a third party.
The superintendent said she also sought feedback from staff members about whether they, or someone for whom they are responsible for care, are among those identified by CDC guidelines as being most vulnerable to COVID. Without identifying the number of respondents, she said that 16% of teachers and 22% of instructional support staff at Mills Lawn Elementary, answered affirmatively, while 26% of teachers and 30% of instructional support staff at the middle and high school campus indicated vulnerability as well.
Holden said the staffing numbers affect the district’s ability to provide in-person instruction with necessary safety protocols.
Still, she said her goal is to get students back in the classroom full time as soon as possible, Toward that end, district leaders will decide in October how to proceed after the first quarter ends Oct. 30.
Calling the situation “unbelievably complex,” school board President Steve Conn said that there is “no good answer” for local students amidst the ongoing pandemic, but the new plan is best for now.
At the same time, he expressed concern about whether teachers are prepared to take on the load of teaching fully online, pointing to complaints from the community about the online offerings this past spring following the state’s closing of schools in March.
Holden assured Conn that instruction this fall will be different from the curriculum employed in the spring, and that teachers, if given the support and resources they need, are up to the task. But she’ll also be looking for more teacher accountability, including their schedules for student contact and engagement, Holden said.
“The burden is on us, on us as a team, not on individual teachers,” she said.
More details about the Yellow Springs plan will be reported in the next issue of the YS News. A copy of the document presented to the school board on Saturday and of the slide presentation given during the meeting are available on the district’s website: http://www.ysschools.org.