River Falls prepares families, buildings
Everyone will wear a mask, unless a personal medical reason forbids this. This, among other details, was in the Wildcat Roadmap document up for discussion on Monday July 27 at a special meeting of the River Falls District School Board.
Going into a special board meeting, the River Falls School Board was set to vote on a Wildcat Roadmap for school reopening, the 17-page document designated as “a living document subject to changes and improvement” and viewable in full online at the district website at https://www.rfsd.k12.wi.us/. Interested parties can navigate their way to the Roadmap by clicking on “agendas and minutes” under “school board,” after hovering over the “district” tab, with an additional click on the “Board of Education and Committee Agendas and Minutes” hyperlink. A final link in the special meeting agenda for July 27 brings up the Wildcat Roadmap as a Google Doc.
Included in the Roadmap up for review is a statement of guiding principles; these being Safety, Equity, Communication, Alignment (to the district’s mission), and Flexibility as needed throughout the year.
Three basic options are listed for the upcoming learning environment, including In-Person Learning, At Home and Distance Learning, and Hybrid Learning, the last of which gets the most attention in the document with several subparagraphs.
Regarding In-Person Learning, the Wildcat Roadmap states on page 11 that “An on-line e-school is operational for students who choose not to attend in-person learning for related concerns and/or medical reasons.” Among those standards of evidence used to determine if students will be in school and on-site are the following.
1) A statewide or countywide mandated school closure order; 2) Pierce/St. Croix County covid-data 3) Department of Health Services (DHS) Risk Assessment Tool 4) “Evidence in our ability to test, trace, and exclude high risk student/staff from school;” 5) Consultation with DHS while balancing the social and emotional and academic needs of students.
Included with In-Person Learning as well is a potential scheduling adjustment as conditions warrant to accommodate deep building cleaning during the day at secondary schools and the evening at elementary schools. After In-Person Learning is Home-Distance Learning, as follows: If deemed necessary, At Home/Distance Learning will entail students receiving instruction from their assigned teacher or teachers while at home. These teachers “will use a combination of digital, synchronous, and asynchronous instruction methods, akin to what was implemented for March to June of the previous school year.
Potential challenges of the At Home/Distance Learning model include the need for increased social and emotional learning opportunities in a virtual environment, along with more synchronous student learning and consistent implementation of the instructional schedule “to promote equity.”
In regards to equity concerns tied to At Home/Distance Learning are the need for the district to provide technology and connectivity to ensure that all students can participate in learning, along with the need for such a plan to account for the disproportionate health impact on certain communities, and potentially widening achievement gaps as a result of this disproportionate impact.
Among communication concerns for the distance learning option are listed the importance for opportunities of two-way conversations with all stakeholders, along with frequent and consistent messaging from the school plus verbal interpretations and written translations available to all families who require them. Under “Professional Development” are the needs for staff to have dedicated time to plan and work in collaborative teams, have ongoing personal development in virtual teaching strategies, and the inclusion of digital citizenship concepts and skills into lessons.
“Inclusion of ‘specials’ classes in elementary schools and electives in middle school” is also listed as being “needed to support the whole child.” Last but not least for the younger readers of The Journal, is the news that grading policies “should align to in person grading expectations,” or in other words, ‘as in public settings, so too in home-based ones.’ For a listing of hybrid options, three main ones are floated: For the first mixed learning option, Hybrid “A” would have elementary students use all buildings, while grades 6 thru 12 would learn at-home/distance learning.
Hybrid “B” option would see ‘cohort’ or group learning, students in grades 6 thru 12 would be split into two main groups and share the space for in-person learning on alternate days, while each group would learn by distance when not on-campus as well as both groups by distance on Wednesdays as the building is deep cleaned. Under Hybrid option “B,” Grades PK thru 5 “would attend school” Monday thru Friday, with a deep clean of the buildings on Wednesday. They would remain in classroom groups for learning, eating, and playing. Lower grades would stay with their “pods” throughout the day. Finally, there is Hybrid “C” for an option.
Under the ‘Thanksgiving break’ option, grades PK thru 12 would attend in-school from September thru Thanksgiving Break and then stay at home as a whole until January 4, learning through athome/ distance instruction.
Among the changes to the school space itself will be plexiglass barriers in the main office “and other high traffic areas.” A separate room will also be staffed “to assist/monitor students with COVID-19 symptoms.” Meanwhile, the original health office “will be available for injuries, routine medication administration, emergency plan tracking, and for chronic medical conditions,” as a means of protecting students with pre-existing conditions—and don’t forget: Everyone wears a mask.