A large majority of parents rejected the idea of continuing remote learning in the fall for Durango School District 9-R students at an online meeting Wednesday with Superintendent Dan Snowberger.
Of about 100 parents who joined the meeting from home, 88% said they preferred a “blended” option if COVID-19 restrictions are still in place. With the blended option, half of the student body would go into school two days per week, and the other half would go into school another two days per week. Teachers would give students at-home assignments for the remaining three days of the week.
“We’ve learned a lot from trial by fire this semester,” Dylan Connell, 9-R’s director of instruction and professional development, said during the meeting.
Snowberger stressed to parents that a remote-learning or blended-learning plan for fall would move forward only if local and statewide restrictions on social distancing are in place.
“Our intent is to open school when we are permitted to do so fully,” Snowberger said.
Preserving school communitiesSome parents are considering switching their children to an online school or developing a home-school curriculum for more flexibility, instead of continuing traditional schooling in the 9-R school district.
But Snowberger said the 9-R online or blended option will help students by letting them be a part of a community, with a “connection to a live teacher that lives here in Durango.”
If students need mental health support or other guidance, the school district is able to serve those needs while other learning options may not, Snowberger said.
“Our desire is to meet the needs of our community,” he said.
Making it manageable for teachersParents expressed concerns that blended and remote options would be difficult for teachers to juggle, along with taking the time to check in individually with each child.
Snowberger responded that any one of these options is a full-time job to manage for teachers, which is why the school district will move forward with either blended or remote learning for all 9-R students only if COVID-19-related social-distancing measures are still in place.
The school district will also use only one digital platform moving forward, instead of moving between several different platforms, such as Google Classroom.
Training for school principals on the new platform, itslearning, has already begun, Connell said.
“Teachers are already gathering and saying: ‘What can we do better?’” Connell said.
A blended format for fall would also give teachers one of the five school days to develop lesson plans and reach out to students and parents virtually or over the phone.
“We want to use this as a learning opportunity,” Connell said, “not just weathering the storm.”
The digital divide Whether the school district pursues a blended or remote model, students will need to stream videos or do research online to complete lessons for at least three of the five school days per week. But some 9-R students do not have access to the internet or reliable access to the internet.
Following the lead of nearby churches, Connell said the school district is considering drive-in internet access spots, or driving buses through dead-zone areas to provide hot spots for internet access.
Over the past few months, teachers have provided printed lesson packets, but Connell said the school district will not continue that next year.
The school district will decide whether to go with a blended or remote model in July, if state restrictions are still in place.
Until then, the district will continue to gather more feedback from parents and teachers.