Lakeport Board of Education discusses learning and attendance plans at special meetings – Lake County Record-Bee | #Education

LAKEPORT—The Lakeport Board of Education hosted back-to-back special meetings live streamed through Zoom this week to discuss learning and attendance plans for next school year. The physical events took place at the Marge Alakszay Center  at Terrace Middle School (MAC), with seating arranged to ensure requirements of social distancing were met. A meeting Tuesday featured a presentation by Superintendent Jill Falconer. The possible transition to a hybrid model of school reopening (Stage 2 of the Lake County Schools COVID-19 Return to School Continuum Plan) was the topic of a follow-up discussion, Wednesday.

Administrators who zoomed in observed that it has been difficult to zoom and manage students in the classroom at the same time. One of the proposals brought up in kindergarten would be to do an A group and a B group. All the in person teaching would be done when the students were on campus while Google Classroom assignments could be done when the students are home. There would also be one person to be solely dedicated to distance learners.

Hotspots were ordered from T-Mobile and Verizon seven weeks ago according to administrators. Only 50 of 200 orders from T-Mobile were delivered and even though all the Verizon ones have already arrived, the network is not built for them yet. The majority of the funding has to be spent by December 30 – an amount of over $1 million dollars, but it cannot be spent to replace computers and technology – only on new additions. It was pointed out at the meeting that besides the pandemic situation, since bad air quality students prevented some students from attending school, supporting technology for distance learning is going to be an important part of the future.

There are still students who have not been able to access virtual instruction because of a lack of hotspots, according to school officials. Students have been waiting since the beginning of the plan, and have not been able to access classes. Fixing that issue was mentioned as a priority.

Participants in the livestream chat, mainly reuniting students and parents, inquired about the use of plexiglass, a transparent thermoplastic often used in sheet form as a lightweight or shatter-resistant alternative to glass. School officials said there is money budgeted for it, under health and safety supplies, in addition to other safety items that will help to keep students separated while in the classroom, in order for parents and staff to feel safe about being on campus and having the students back. Extra cleaning time must also be added, to clean the areas in use before any other students can sit on a different day or due to a different schedule.

It was encouraged by participants for the high school and the elementary school to consider opening their learning resource center for small groups of students. The district is also currently working with the Lake County Office of Education to open learning hubs around the Lake. Opening a learning hub at the Big Valley Rancheria was also a project brought up in the discussion.

A number of parents voiced reservations about sending their kids back to school.

During Wednesday’s special meeting, the board reconvened one more time to bring up the feasibility of transitioning to the hybrid model of school reopening.

School officials stated that the district’s goal is to get to hybrid learning as safe and as soon as possible. They have been holding distance learning instruction since school started. Families and staff answered questions on two surveys two weeks ago. From approximately 190 employees, 147 responded. They were asked about how satisfied they have been with distance learning. One was not satisfied at all; five were very satisfied. In general, rates went from neutral toward very satisfied.

The staff’s biggest obstacles involve dealing with distance learning

The most popular comments included:

  • A lack of internet and hotspots
  • The difficulty of having to make connections and to build relationships via distance learning
  • Zoom classes may not be age appropriate for everyone
  • Too much zooming time
  • Too much screen time
  • Students who are not engaged in Zoom are distracted by siblings or parents at home
  • A lack of communication
  • Confusion over scheduling.

The district also asked staff about their opinion on when to officially start hybrid learning – either as soon as possible, at the quarter break, which would be October 13 or on the semester break, on Jan. 4, 2021. The most popular answer was “at the semester break or later”.

With about 1,100 families and 1,400 students, the study got 461 responses out of those 1,100 families. When asked about their preference on when should the district start hybrid instruction, 24% of the parents said they would like their children to stay in distance learning for the entire year; 40% said they would like the district to start the next stage as soon as possible; 9%, at the quarter break; and, 27%, at the semester break.

“I do think that, as a teacher, most teachers want nothing more than for all of us to be over (this) and to have our kids back in class. We didn’t go to school to be teachers to not have kids with us every single day. That’s just not in our nature, and we’re missing them terribly,” said Clear Lake High School teacher Cary Stillman. “But we are doing the best that we can. I want to make sure that as we move into the hybrid model, that we prepare our teachers’ classrooms and their technology to the best of our ability. The technology is not where it needs to be. And it is quite difficult in some cases, when you have half your students online and half of them in the classroom, and you’re wearing a mask, and you’re trying to project your voice to all these people and all these different places.”

“We obviously need to start making the plan, and we obviously need to start moving in that direction, whether it’ll be a fluid plan or not, whether we can start it now or not, having a plan in place for when we do get to comeback is key, because rushing all of us, at the end, isn’t going to make us successful,” said Stillman and added that administrators need to have the technology in place for the teachers in order to have success with hybrid learning.

Another teacher, Christian Dorn, said that “the major effect for teachers continues to be figuring out how to do distance learning, effectively, which I think we are still figuring out, little by little, since distance learning does not stop.”

Dorn said hybrid is a nice idea but, in practice, “it’s not a big improvement over distance.”

“For special education students and kindergarten students, you really need that in person (method). That can be done more safely if you just separate out those populations, and don’t bring everyone back in at the same time,” he said. “It seems an unnecessary move, considering the high school students already know how to study, how to look at assignments and figure them out.”

 


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