Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Sept. 23, 2020

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Evergreen district schools will start year remotely

Unanimous vote by board approves new learning plan

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:

Students in Clark County’s largest school district will start the year at a distance, after the Evergreen Public Schools Board of Directors on Tuesday unanimously adopted a remote learning plan.

The board met for more than four hours, answering more than 90 audience questions before approving the school’s reopening policies.

“I would make this decision a hundred times over,” board member Rachael Rogers said in her endorsement of the plan to begin the year with distance learning.

Here are the highlights:

What will my child’s day look like?

Like other school districts, Evergreen Public Schools will rely on days split into periods of “synchronous” and “asynchronous” learning: live instruction versus independent work.

Elementary school students will have periods in the day for reading, writing, math, science, social studies, physical education and art. Middle and high school students will attend all six of their classes several times throughout the week through live video.

What exactly that looks like remains to be seen; district officials said conversations are ongoing with the district’s teachers union to set a consistent schedule.

“We’re looking at how we can meet the needs of our students, how we can meet the needs of our teachers,” said Julie Tumelty, the district’s executive director of teaching and learning.

What about grades and attendance?

Grades and taking attendance are back. Students will be graded on a traditional scale for their grade level, with opportunities to make up assignments to show their growth.

Attendance will be more flexible.

Students will be deemed present if they log in to their district-issued computer, allowing students who aren’t able to connect during the day to be counted. Tumelty noted there’s a difference between attendance and engagement.

Students who log in to their computers are doing the equivalent of stepping into the school building. Students will still be expected to complete their assignments, answer discussion questions, watch prerecorded videos and communicate with their teachers.

What other services are the district offering?

Evergreen Public Schools has received support from the 1Million Project, a Sprint initiative to provide Wi-Fi access to students without reliable internet. The district has already divvied out a number of hot spots to students.

Libraries will also be open for service, with students able to check out books and other materials.

Lunches will be provided.

What’s left to figure out?

Evergreen Public Schools Superintendent Mike Merlino on Tuesday hinted at possible layoffs in light of the state’s $9 billion budget shortfall. The district is currently in bargaining with its labor groups, including those representing classified employees like paraeducators and secretaries. With campuses closed and enrollment declines projected, Merlino said there may not be work for some of those employees.

The district is also evaluating how and when to bring students back for in-person instruction.

“The fact that we’re remote learning does not mean we don’t have the ability to have kids on site,” Merlino said.

There could be very small group gatherings of students with special education needs, for example, or for students who are starting at their respective schools for the first time.

“We’re all here to educate our students,” he said.

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