Union R-XI

The Union R-XI School Board voted 4 to 3 to go to in-person learning five days a week, starting Aug. 26.

This decision is a change from the draft plan proposed to the board last week. That plan called for a hybrid model, with elementary students going to campus five days a week and middle and high school students going to campus two days a week and learning virtually three days.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold told The Missourian the challenge the district now faces is with social distancing.

“I find it is going to be very difficult for us to social distance in a middle school of 700 kids and high school of 1,000,” Weinhold said. “But the administrative teams will work their best (for everyone) to be safe and have a good learning environment for all of our students.”

The current plan does have students in fourth through 12th grades wearing masks when social distancing is not possible, said Dr. Virgil Weideman, president of the school board. He said the decision to switch to in-person learning was a difficult one.

“Everyone on the board had the best of intentions,” Weideman said. “The goal was to keep the kids safe and ensure a good education.”

The board also passed a motion that granted the Union R-XI administration permission to change to the hybrid or online model if circumstances or recommendations from health and other officials were to change, Weideman said.

Weinhold said students can still opt to partake in Wildcat@Home, a fully virtual school option. The virtual option is for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and families must commit to an entire semester of the program, which uses software made by Edgenuity, an Arizona-based, online-curriculum provider.

The district came up with the hybrid model proposal after receiving survey results from staff and parents.

Half of the staff members, which includes teachers and other employees, responded that they want an all on-campus approach, with 41.5 percent saying they want a blended approach and 8.5 percent wanting online only.

Among families, 57.9 percent of elementary parents responded that they wanted all in-person classes, but that number dropped to 46.4 percent for the middle school parents and 50.5 percent for the parents of high school students who responded.