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YS Schools to continue online instruction for second quarter

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Yellow Springs Schools’ Board of Education on Thursday evening, Oct. 8, approved a recommendation from Superintendent Terri Holden that the district continue with an online instructional model for the second quarter, Monday, Nov. 2, through Friday, Jan. 15.

The plan will not be a simple continuation of the first quarter, however, Holden told the board, as the schools will be incorporating more opportunities for one-on-one and small group connections and support between students and staff as well as more social experiences for students.

Holden said that a variety of “data points” influenced her recommendation.

“It’s important to make decisions based on data,” she said. “Not on my gut, or what other people are doing, and not on my ego and pride.”

She said the pieces of information that had the biggest bearing on her thinking were: current COVID-19 statistics; the capabilities and limits of the district’s facilities; the academic calendar; and survey results from parents, staff and students.

She noted that in the 10 days between Sept. 29 and Oct. 8, the health department reported 238 new COVID cases, eight hospitalizations precipitated by the disease, and three related deaths. Numbers are not going down, Holden said, speculating that they could rise further with colder weather bringing a greater chance of disease spread as more people gather indoors.

As for facilities, Holden said the school buildings have aging ventilation systems that don’t provide optimum air circulation. She said the district has purchased small air filters for each classroom, but she doesn’t think it’s enough. In addition, many classrooms are not large enough to accommodate appropriate physical distancing, Holden said.

The academic calendar is a relevant consideration, Holden said, because of the two separate holiday breaks that fall in the middle of the second quarter — Thanksgiving in November and the two-week winter break at the end of December. Students and staff are “in and out and in and out,” and both breaks involve holidays that feature family and other social gatherings that could increase exposure to the virus. 

Considering the surveys, parents and staff showed a preference for continuing with remote learning — over adopting a hybrid approach that would feature a 50% return to the classroom. But the results from a survey of 7-12 graders were more evenly split, and a survey of fifth and sixth graders favored a return to school.

The parents survey had 453 respondents, Holden said. Of those 256 (65.5%) favored continuing online with instruction by local teachers, 192 (42.4%) said they preferred a partial return and 5 (1.1%) chose going online through a third-party provider.

Of 64 staff members who responded, 44 (68.8%) favored remote learning and 20 (31.3%), a partial return.

Holden said 191 7-12th graders responded to their own survey, with 101 (52.9%) indicating a preference for remaining online and 90 (47.1%) favoring a hybrid approach. Seventh-five fifth and sixth graders weighed in as well, with 52 (69.3%) favoring the partial-return option and 23 (30.7%) showing a preference to stay online.

Holden said that comments on the surveys gave her a lot of information, and several themes arose, including the importance of health and safety for students, staff and the community; and “the need for kids to be kids and connect with each other.”

That need for connection is driving the plan to provide more structured in-person opportunities for emotional and social support while instruction remains based online, Holden said. More information about the plan will be going out to families at the end of the month, before the new quarter begins, Holden said. In the meantime, the report she presented to the board Thursday evening is to be posted on the district’s website Friday, Oct. 9, the superintendent said.

More details also will be explored in the print edition of the News.

10/9/20 Update: Click here https://bit.ly/3iLz03N to view the slideshow presentation.



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