Teachers may be given two consecutive professional-development days to share ideas and plan for teaching different learning models that Durango schools are using to accommodate students’ return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The added work teachers have faced – adapting class lessons to an all-remote learning model or to a blended model offering three days of remote classes and two days of in-person classes – has increased stress in the system.
Last month, three teachers went before the school board to express their frustrations about the multiple learning models.
“Teachers need time to catch their breath,” Durango School District 9-R Superintendent Dan Snowberger told board members.
Snowberger said academic and social enrichment activities would be offered on the two teacher-professional days for kindergarten through sixth grade students and for students with significant needs to help parents who would need to find child care on short notice.
Initially, Snowberger was looking at providing the professional-development days on Friday, Oct. 23, and Monday, Oct. 26, but he said providing parents with only 1½ weeks notice was problematic.
The district is also looking at delaying the two teacher-development days to Friday, Oct. 30, and Monday, Nov. 2, or perhaps moving to a Tuesday and Wednesday to avoid creating a four-day weekend.
Snowberger hopes to make a decision which two days to take by Friday.
School Board President Shere Byrd worried offering teacher development days on a Friday and a Monday would entice families to plan trips, which would increase the danger of transmission of COVID-19.
“If you provide an opportunity for people to take a four-day weekend, they will take that,” she said.
Enrichment activities might not be offered at all schools, and instead would be concentrated at fewer schools, which would compromise the cohort groups students have maintained so far this year to minimize the risk of student exposure to the novel coronavirus.
Snowberger said while the plan to add teacher development days does compromise the cohort model, he thought the risk was worth taking to give teachers a chance to share plans that have worked in moving to different learning models and to prepare teachers who might be changing the learning model they are using for their classes.
At the nine-week mark of the school year, the district will allow families to change the learning models they have requested for their children.
Most families are opting to move their students to full-time in-person learning instead of the all-remote learning model or the blended-learning model, Snowberger said.
At the nine-week mark, some teachers will also have to change their teaching learning model to accommodate the different learning model choices made by families.
Snowberger noted that all schools might not be able to meet the needs of every family looking to move to in-person learning because of a lack of space to offer social distancing required under the state’s Safer at Home rules.
If La Plata County is able to meet the lowered transmission rates to move to the state’s Protect Our Neighbors model, where social distancing rules are less stringent, all 9-R schools would be able to handle a full complement of students attending classes at school five days a week, he said.