By Lynn Binnie
Whitewater Banner volunteer staff
September 14, 2020
At another three hour meeting, tonight the Whitewater Unified School District board approved the recommendation of District Administrator Caroline Pate-Hefty to follow through with the tentative plan agreed to on August 10 to return to full face-to-face instruction effective September 28. After the meeting parents of all district children were emailed an announcement (reproduced at the bottom of this article) which includes a survey to be returned by this Friday, September 18 in which they will indicate whether the student(s) in their family will be attending school virtually or in-person, Monday through Friday. This choice will be effective through the end of the semester on January 21. The district’s expectation is that approximately 70% will choose the in-person option. Parents whose children may have difficulty adapting fully to either of these options due to disabilities or medical situations are encouraged to contact an administrator at their school to discuss possible accommodations. Due to the plan to maintain as much distancing as possible within the buses, parents are encouraged to provide transportation to/from school if at all possible.
On August 24 the board had adopted the revised school reopening guidance from Jefferson County Health Department, which is based on the Harvard School of Public Health recommendations. This guidance utilizes daily case incidence instead of positivity rates. Dr. Pate-Hefty acknowledged to the board at tonight’s meeting that the COVID-19 Risk Level based on case incidence in the three counties is currently at “Orange,” which is high risk. This Whitewater Banner post gives details regarding these recommendations, which at the orange level includes continuing with virtual learning for all students in grades 9-12. In a conversation with Dr. Pate-Hefty after the meeting this writer expressed the view that, given the current rapidly increasing level of positive test results in Whitewater, it is possible that the balanced case incidence metric might by September 23 enter the “Red,” very high risk level, wherein the Jefferson County model recommends all virtual instruction. Pate-Hefty indicated that the board had confirmed that, while they would be consulted in that event, it would remain their intention to continue with the September 28 plan. The forementioned communication does, however, remind parents that “following Health Department guidance, there may be occasions where specific students, entire classrooms, or an entire school may need to shift to virtual learning.”
Initially the board had limited public comment to one hour, but when that time limit was reached they agreed to hear the remaining five individuals whose “hands” were raised. A large portion of the callers argued for a return to full face-to-face instruction. Some indicated that the virtual instruction being provided now was superior to that in the spring, but others stated that it had been essentially ineffective for their learners. Some parents acknowledged concern with the risks involved with returning to school.
Although the board ultimately voted unanimously to support the recommended plan, several expressed significant reservations. In fact, both Casey Judd and Steve Ryan indicated that on Monday morning they had expected to vote against the plan. Mr. Ryan indicated that for him, “safety is #1,” and stated that he had been won over by the safety provisions that are planned. Mr. Judd felt that it was important to remember that there is one group that is not being given a choice, which is the teachers and other staff. Tom Ganser emphasized that the schools are trusting the parents to comply with the required precautions such as taking student temperatures each morning. Thayer Coburn expressed concern about getting hopes up, “when we’re asking five year olds to be vigilent.” Jennifer Kienbaum acknowledged that many parents and teachers are stressed and scared, but believes that the district can be successful, since other districts are making it work.
Near the end of the meeting school administrators acknowledged that there have been challenges related to providing sufficient staffing. 175 elementary students are already participating in the fully virtual option, and the expectation is that this number will rise even further. Consequently the administration requested, and the board authorized, three additional teacher positions for the virtual program, only one of which will require to be funded due to transfers. There are openings for paraprofessionals, and concern was also expressed regarding the limited supply of substitutes.
This communication was emailed to parents after the School Board meeting.
Updated WUSD Fall Instructional Plan
Beginning on Monday, September 28, the Whitewater Unified School District will offer full in-person instruction for grades 4K-12. Families will have the option of having their children attend in-person or fully virtually for the remainder of the first semester:
100% In-Person Option
Starting September 28
All students in grades 4K-12 may begin attending school five days per week in-person. Please note, following Health Department guidance, there may be occasions where specific students, entire classrooms, or an entire school may need to shift to virtual learning.
100% Virtual Option
Elementary Level: Through WUSD Virtual, the district provides teacher-led instruction that parallels the pacing and standards-based instruction of the in-person classroom model. Virtual instructors offer “real time” lessons and pre-recorded options, posted materials, resources, and video for students to access at their convenience.
6-12 Level: Students choosing virtual instruction are assigned courses through a virtual program. This standards-based curriculum is aligned with district in-person instruction. A course instructor and a support coach are assigned to each student to monitor academic progress and offer support as needed.
What Should You Do Next?
Fill out the survey linked here: https://forms.gle/Wb7Ho5Fui3BBswHT6
Select your model option starting September 28, 2020 as soon as possible.
Families of students with disabilities or those requiring accommodations are encouraged to contact their school administrator.
Students requesting school bus transportation must submit the form by Friday, September 18 at 5pm.
Like us on Facebook ( Whitewater Unified School District-WUSD) for ongoing updates.
Plan educativo de otoño del WUSD actualizado
A partir del lunes, 28 de septiembre, el Distrito Escolar Unificado de Whitewater comenzará a ofrecer instrucción completamente presencial para los grados de 4K a 12. Las familias tendrán la opción de que sus hijos asistan en persona o de forma virtual durante el resto del primer semestre:
Opción 100 % opción en persona
Comienza el 28 de septiembre
Todos los estudiantes de 4K a 12 podrían comenzar a asistir a la escuela cinco días a la semana de manera presencial. Tenga en cuenta que, siguiendo la guía del Departamento de Salud, puede haber ocasiones en las que ciertos estudiantes específicos, aulas enteras o la escuela entera puedan necesitar cambiar al aprendizaje virtual.
Opción 100 % virtual
Nivel primario: A través del WUSD Virtual, el distrito proporciona instrucción dirigida por el maestro al mismo ritmo y con los mismos contenidos educativos del modelo de clase presencial. Los instructores virtuales ofrecen lecciones en “tiempo real” y opciones pregrabadas, materiales publicados, recursos y videos para que los estudiantes accedan a ellas según su conveniencia.
Nivel de 6 a 12: Los estudiantes que elijan la instrucción virtual serán asignados a cursos basados en un programa virtual. Este plan de estudio va de acuerdo a los estándares educativos de la instrucción presencial del distrito. Se asignará un instructor de curso y un instructor de apoyo a cada estudiante para supervisar el progreso académico y ofrecer el apoyo que sea necesario.
¿Qué debe hacer a continuación?
Complete la encuesta,que se puede acceder en: https://forms.gle/Wb7Ho5Fui3BBswHT6
Elija el modelo de educación que comenzará el 28 de septiembre de 2020 lo antes posible.
Se anima a las familias de estudiantes con discapacidades o que requieran adaptaciones a que se comuniquen con el director de su escuela.
Los estudiantes que soliciten transporte en autobús escolar deben enviar el formulario antes del viernes 18 de septiembre a las 5 pm.
Dé “Me gusta” en Distrito Escolar Unificado de Whitewater en Facebook para recibir actualizaciones periódicas.