R-2 superintendent addresses re-entry plan for virtual vs. in-person learning proposals

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 7/29/20

Gasconade County R-2 School District Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner on Monday tried to clarify questions about the school re-entry plan that was proposed July 20 and approved by the board of …

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R-2 superintendent addresses re-entry plan for virtual vs. in-person learning proposals


Gasconade County R-2 School District Superintendent Dr. Chuck Garner on Monday tried to clarify questions about the school re-entry plan that was proposed July 20 and approved by the board of education.

“We are going to make changes to these plans clear up until school starts,” Garner explained, in an effort to clarify that what is true today may not be true tomorrow.

After printing discussion and pieces of the district’s re-entry plan, parents and students reached out to The Republican with questions that Garner attempted to clarify. Several questions were about the distance learning option — what it would look like and how students would be affected.

Will athletics and extracurricular activities still be available to virtual learning students?

Garner: Currently, if a student chooses the virtual learning option and is 100 percent at home, they are not eligible for extra activities. If they are wanting to come for partial days for extracurricular classes, they would have to talk to the building administration about that plan.

What will online learning look like?

Garner: It depends on the learning platform that is being utilized, and right now we don’t know. It will be based on grade level and classes that they are enrolled in.

Some classes will not be available online. Can students take some of those classes in the building and the remainder online?

Garner: They need to contact their building administrator. Some classes would not be able to be offered virtually. If they are coming in for those periods — other students do that. That wouldn’t change.

Is the online option the same thing that the district was already offering for online courses?

Garner: No. The plan for distance learning fits COVID-19 related issues. We had an online version of courses and students that were paying to take those classes at the high school level. A class then was a course that we may not have been able to offer. That is an online option for students.

For virtual learning, that is an option for students. If that is something that works best for them — and there is a process to determine if that is best for them — then it goes on a case-by-case basis if the online option works. They have to be enrolled full-time for at least a semester, in person, to qualify for that option. It depends on what vendor the district is utilizing and how that works.

If this is something that they are looking forward to; that’s why we are looking at reasons and what is best for them. It is not a one-size-fits-all.

How will alternative learning, such as RTI activities, be conducted during the 2020-21 school year?

Garner: The plan is still to provide that. Right now if there are some limitations RTI will be the ones to put that into place at Rolla. We will work in conjunction with them and what that plan looks like. We have always limited our enrollment based on finance and if you qualify to go. Students have to go through a vetting process. Right now we are looking to send the same number of students we always have sent. If we continue to head down the path that we are on in financial cuts, we will have to look at the path to cutting all programs and services.

If students chose to participate in virtual learning, how soon will they know what classes they may take and receive a schedule?

Garner: We have asked students to let us know what they would like to do by the first week of August so we can determine what that looks like. There should be some determination to what classes they will be able to take. How that will be delivered will have to be determined. Each building already knows what classes will be available virtually. Students and parents should reach out to their building administrators to find out more.

What is the district hoping to achieve by offering virtual learning?

Garner: The distance learning option was offered for two main reasons. To provide the best academic environment we can for all students and individual circumstances require students to take that course from home. We are trying to ensure that we have the most precautions to put in place for the students we have in person and the best learning environment for students who attend virtually. We are not asking any students to choose one or the other at this point.

How does this play out long term?

Following student and parent questions, The Republican asked Garner how virtual learning will affect the school financially.

Due to COVID-19, sales, income and property taxes are expected to be affected this year and next year’s revenues for all taxpayer-funded programs could be severely impacted, area administrators including Garner have already warned.

Garner was asked: with education already taking a large hit this year, how will the school financially manage offering virtual learning programs that may be outsourced to other companies in the bottom line of the annual budget?

“It’s difficult to say,” Garmer said. “It all depends on what format we utilize. It’s difficult to say if there will be one or two or nine or 10 students per class. It’s difficult for us to answer that question. Classes may be taught by Gasconade R-2 staff or an outside vendor depending on the number of students and classes we are talking about.”

Ultimately, Garner said the plan could change several times before school starts on Aug. 24, and already has.

“I think the bottom line is that we tried to put the best guidance out that we could knowing things could change before the start of school, based on recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to put out new guidance,” Garner said.

The CDC already put out new guidance on Monday that anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 need only to be symptom free for 24 hours, without use of medication and fever free, before returning to public places. The previous recommendation was 72 hours or three days without medicinal treatment and being fever free.

“That will impact our plan and we will try to continue to stay up to date,” Garner said.

Students who wish to participate in the virtual learning option must declare their intent between Aug. 3-5. They should contact their school building administrator for a list of available classes.


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