The decision to suspend on-campus instruction and switch to a “home-based” learning curriculum was made Monday, March 16, at an emergency meeting with the Union R-XI Board of Education.
The district will switch to a home-based learning curriculum due to the concerns of the spread of COVID-19 or coronavirus. The change will take place Wednesday, March 18, and tentatively end Friday, April 3.
Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold expressed to the board the need for a shutdown in the district.
Weinhold attended a meeting earlier in the day with area superintendents of public and parochial schools, a representative from the Four Rivers Family YMCA, Franklin County Commissioner Tim Brinker, Director of the Franklin County Health Department Angie Hittson and area supervisor from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
According to Weinhold, superintendents, along with the commissioner agreed on conducting shutdowns and will reassess in one or two weeks.
“There are no known cases in Franklin County at this time,” Weinhold explained. “But we need to look at the social distancing aspect.”
Students attended class Tuesday, March 17, to prepare for the online transition.
All district employees will continue to receive a paycheck during the shutdown, Weinhold said.
“The district employees can still be put to work and the district wants to assure them that there will be a payday for them,” Weinhold said.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Scott Hayes said that the switch to home-based learning will be focused on reinforcement, instead of learning new material, and assured the board that all students will have access to materials.
According to Hayes, the reinforcement learning can be done online or in packets.
“What the learning process will look like will be different for each student,” Hayes said.
A survey was sent home with students Monday, March 16, to inform officials who will have access to internet.
“Those who do not have online access will be issued a packet to take home,” Hayes said.
The district will be using the program iReady for elementary curriculum, Hayes said.
Students will focus on English Language Arts, math, social studies and science. Parents or guardians will be provided with a breakdown of a daily schedule to help them navigate the learning process.
The middle school will take the same approach as the elementary and focus on reinforcement.
All teachers during the break are expected to call in and check in with the students and their parents each week.
“Communication with parents will be key and teachers will be the facilitators of the learning process during this time,” Hayes said.
High school students will use Google Classroom during the shutdown and also focus on reinforcement.
Hayes acknowledged a concern with state-mandated testing coming up. Both Hayes and Weinhold explained that this is a unique situation for the district, teachers and students. It is “uncharted waters” if the shutdown goes past April 3.
“We may have to rethink how we handle instruction throughout this process,” Weinhold said. “And our approach if we extend this break.”
Hayes added they are still in the process of finalizing details and parents can expect a more structured plan later this week for students.
Weinhold informed the board the district has the ability to feed anyone under the age of 18 and are looking into doing a food service.
The food service, according to Weinhold, would allow parents to bring children to a location where food could be picked up without having to go inside a building.
The district would give lunch and breakfast. Weinhold added that they are trying to determine the need and want for this. Details for food service will be announced at a later date.
The school buildings will be closed Wednesday, March 18 to 22, according to Weinhold. Cleaning and disinfecting of the buildings will begin Monday, March 23.
The district’s Administration Building plans on staying open Wednesday and then closing for a period of time.
“We have not broken down what that looks like yet,” Weinhold said. “We will have to wait and see where we go after Wednesday.”
Weinhold gave ideas of what could take place with administrative employees. Examples were staff coming in two or three people at a time for a couple of days or working remotely from home.
Weinhold noted that this is still in the beginning stages and an “unprecedented” situation.
“No district has had a great or solid answer on what they are going to do,” Weinhold said. “Everyone is still looking things over.”
During the shutdown, schools will be cleaned but they plan to wait a few days after the shutdown.
“The virus can live on surfaces for several days,” Weinhold explained. “At this time there is no rush to clean or send people into the school because the schools will be closed.”
With no confirmed cases in the area, Weinhold said waiting is a smart decision because “why would the district put employees at risk.”
The district is still in the planning process of cleaning and is considering staggering its employees for cleaning shifts rather than have them come in all at once, the reason being that if someone does contract the virus they are not all sick at once.
The decision to shut down the school for two and a half weeks was made by unanimous vote.
The district is working hard to finalize details, Weinhold said.
For updates on the district, visit its website https://urxi-mo.schoolloop.com/, or its Facebook page, Union R-XI School District.