During an 8 a.m. outdoor teachers and staff meeting on Dutchmen Field on Monday, Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner informed Gasconade County R-2 educators that 94.5 percent of students wanted to be in …
During an 8 a.m. outdoor teachers and staff meeting on Dutchmen Field on Monday, Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner informed Gasconade County R-2 educators that 94.5 percent of students wanted to be in their classrooms.
“It’s important to form a relationship with students in your classroom,” Garner said during the sunny Aug. 17 session that saw educators distancing themselves in their own chairs between the 30 yard-lines on each side of the field.
During an hour-long pep-talk, educators heard from Garner, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Jeri Kay Hardy, and School Board President Glenn Ely.
Hardy added that some students are coming back to class with a problem.
“Be caring and understanding when they come back,” she said. “Pay attention to relationships with colleagues, students and staff. Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.”
Out of the 1,745 students enrolled, 94.5 percent or 1,648 students are learning in the classroom and 5.5 percent or 97 students are opting into virtual learning. The estimated cost per student to participate in distance learning is $499 a semester, and the school is required to cover the cost.
“All distance learners in K-12 will use Educere,” Hardy said. “There is another provider that the state is talking about using that is $6,500 per student, but is not required. All teachers through Educere are certified.”
While the tuition cost per student for the district is estimated at around $8,000 a semester, Hardy explains virtual learning does not save the district money.
“If we are having to provide virtual instruction, it comes out of the budget that we would not be taking those expenses out of normally. But due to the Missouri State Statute, we have to provide the virtual instruction,” she said.
Hardy told educators they did not want to overwhelm them with virtual learning without some kind of professional development, however teachers would have the option to teach virtual learning classes in addition to their in-person classes if they chose. If educators decide later that it is too much to take on, they can contact Educere at any time to add the student to the curriculum.
Teachers were encouraged to ask questions at the end of the meeting. The following were answered by Garner and Hardy.
Q: Will teachers be paid if they are quarantined?
A: “Allowing teachers to be paid for 80 hours, one time, is in the federal CARES Act,” Hardy said.
Q: Will teachers be able to teach virtually if they are in quarantine?
A: “We are going to allow teachers who are quarantined, but don’t have COVID, to teach from home if they wish. That way they don’t have to miss class time with students,” Hardy said. “A sub would be in the classroom with the students. We are trying to work with teachers so they don’t have to use up all of their own time because they could be quarantined multiple times. We are trying to work with them to make that as easy as possible.”
Q: Will an entire class be quarantined if someone in the class tests positive?
A: “We will follow the health department’s guidelines,” Garner said.
Hardy added, “If they were within six-feet of the positive case. That is the part I think a lot of people wouldn’t realize. If a student is in the back, left corner of the room and another student is in the far right, front of the room, they would not meet quarantine standards, according to the health department. That is why it is so important to have seating charts in the classroom. If someone is closer than six-feet apart for more than 15 minutes, they will be quarantined. If it is less than that, those kids would not be required to quarantine.”
Q: Will parents, teachers and students be notified of sick case(s)?
A: Yes. “What you may see happening at the high school level is a student may be in class, but they have eight classes a day, and we will be contacting all of those parents for each of those classes. It is going to be challenging,” Hardy said. “It could be 90 to 120 different sets of parents. We will use the district’s communication system and have classes set up on eNotes by class period. So we will send out a notification to each parent per classroom. They may receive it several times if their student has multiple classes and a bus ride with that student. We will use eNotes to keep everyone in the loop. It will be very difficult to make those contacts in one day so we will push it out through eNotes and then it will be immediate.”
Q: How to keep air circulating in the classroom?
A: Teachers will be allowed to choose if they want an outside window open or to have their doors open, since the exterior doors are secured.
“We will ask that teachers keep their doors locked, even if they are open, so if there is an emergency they can simply shut the door and not be fumbling with keys,” Garner said.
The district worked hard to have their plans in place prior to the beginning of summer school. That plan did have to be utilized in the case where two staff members and a student were quarantined. Hardy said so far the plan that has been implemented has worked out well.
“But the number of students that come to school during regular school versus summer school is much larger,” Hardy said.
Teachers are being trained on how to enforce social distancing as well as the annual training activities.
“We are pushing a lot of training out via video this year to keep social distancing,” Hardy said. “Seeing more training online and once we are in school, we will send a survey to teachers to see how that worked for them. After the pandemic, do they want to return to in-person training or continue with the video training?”
For students who have chosen to participate in the virtual learning option, meals are available through the school.
“If the student qualifies for free or reduced lunch, it would be much the same as it was last year — pick up the meals at the beginning of the week during a designated time at a designated location,” Hardy said.
For those that normally purchase lunch, they can also continue to do that. Any parents who are interested in purchasing the school lunch for their student should contact their building administrator for more information. The district won’t know how many of their virtual learners will purchase or pick up meals from the school until after the first week is up and enrollment in the program is over.