The program would be offered as a second option to families who do not feel comfortable sending their students back into the classroom for in-person instruction due to ongoing public health concerns around COVID-19.
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While voicing his support of offering a remote option, board member Jim Martin urged a renaming of the program.
"Learning cannot be done online," he said. "Learning cannot be done remotely. Learning cannot be done virtually. Learning is done by the learner engaging in the work. And so I would strongly encourage us -- because I think it changes the mindset -- for us to take up the terminology of remote instruction. Because that's what we're doing."
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Board member Monika Johnson-Hostler also weighed in, saying not every family will have a choice when it comes to virtual learning. She encouraged the board to consider how the program relates to their commitment to equity and diversity.
The board is also considering staff recommendations regarding social distancing guidelines for when students return to class.
This is what it could look like in @WCPSS classrooms when students come back. Staff recommend allotting 50 square feet per student to allow for 6 feet of social distancing. Schools may need to use libraries, cafeterias, gyms for classroom instruction. @ABC11_WTVD #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/Q5ZW680N6d— Andrea Blanford (@AndreaABC11) June 16, 2020
Staff are looking at allotting 50 square feet per student to allow for 6 feet of social distancing in classrooms; it means cutting down most class sizes to only 16-18 students and using gyms, cafeterias and media centers to make up for that needed extra classroom space. Staff are also exploring whether the district could use other types of instructors to support core classroom teaching in the downsized classrooms.
Superintendent Cathy Moore said staff and the board need to move quickly to add up the cost so that the legislature and the public can understand how much funding these changes will require.
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"In order to implement the type of social distancing that might be the most recommended for our classrooms, the impact on the number of teachers that we would need in order to do that, not to mention whether we have the space in the building to do it, is another cost factor," she said.
Staff also said about 6,400 elementary students will take part in the virtual Summer Jump Start and Intervention Program, which the state is requiring for K-4th grade students negatively affected by COVID-19.