AMORY – During a special-called Amory School Board meeting June 25, district superintendent Ken Byars talked about how the upcoming school year may look instruction-wise and its potential complications. After discussion, the school board gave preliminary approval for Byars’ opinion to pursue a traditional in-class approach with an option for virtual instruction as circumstances may require.
“We will do our best to plan for the best year possible even though circumstances and guidelines could change tomorrow,” he said.
The task at hand for Byars and the district is to prepare a plan of action to present for Amory School Board approval at its next meeting July 9, which will then be submitted to MDE.
“Changes are coming quickly. The word of the year is flexibility,” he said.
Byars reported on data received from a districtwide survey of parents in response to the three options generated by the MDE for reopening schools for the 2020-21 school year – traditional in-class school, continuing distance learning launched during the last nine weeks of the 2019-20 school year and a hybrid plan combining the two approaches.
An average of 88 percent of parents who participated in the survey want to return to in-class instruction as much as possible. Reviewing the numbers, Byars said that no point in the data returned indicated that the district needed to consider another overall option besides traditional education.
“We can’t go back the same way,” Byars said as he listed the unprecedented challenges that face educators this fall, both with traditional and virtual education.
He said challenges for traditional in-class instruction include compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines that will significantly alter traditional practices in school and transportation of students on buses.
“Safe distancing in classrooms and buses are the greatest challenges. It’s not feasible for us to follow all the recommendations, but we will do a good-faith attempt,” he said.
He cited that redistributing classes to accommodate social distancing guidelines is limited by the size of facilities available and logistics of crowd management.
“Our hallways aren’t wide enough to keep everyone six feet apart during class changes,” he said.
Moreover, Byars said the biggest challenge is that accountability standards for course completion and graduation must still be met while complying with CDC guidelines to prevent spreading the virus.
He listed challenges to virtual instruction experienced during the spring semester that included issues with limited connectivity across the district and being able to provide devices and services adequately to the student population in their homes.
“Even if we got funding to get everyone a device that needs one, it would be January before we could get everyone supplied,” he said.
Another major issue Byars cited was the affect of the pandemic mediation plans on extracurricular activities.
“Our kids thrive on extracurriculars,” he said.