With every passing day, April 6 draws closer. That’s the day when the Campbell County School District is supposed to start classes again after an extended spring break brought on by the coronavirus
School trustees indicated Tuesday night the break could be much longer, saying that the district has to be ready to provide remote learning opportunities to its students.
“It looks like it’s going to be sticking around for a while,” board chairwoman Anne Ochs said of the virus.
“We have to get all our ducks in a row here. It’s not going to peter out,” said board member Joe Lawrence. “This is not going to go away for a bit. We have to face reality here. We’ve got to try the best we can in getting this ready.”
At a school board meeting hosted on Zoom on Tuesday night, board members talked with district administration about what they’re planning should schools not be ready to open on April 6.
No decisions were made at the meeting.
As of right now, the end of the school calendar has not changed. High school graduations are still on track to take place in mid-May, said superintendent Alex Ayers, who acknowledged that those could change, depending on what happens in the next few weeks.
Last Tuesday, the district extended spring break by two weeks, following a recommendation from Gov. Mark Gordon and Jillian Balow, state superintendent of public instruction. Next week, Gordon and Balow will most likely make a recommendation on whether schools should remain closed.
Deputy Superintendent Kirby Eisenhauer said the state Department of Education has told districts to be ready to provide educational opportunities to their students on April 6 in the event that schools are not ready to open.
“We’re planning for the worst and hoping for the best,” he said.
Some districts in Wyoming already have started online instruction, but Eisenhauer said he wasn’t ready to publicly present CCSD’s plan yet.
“We want to be very deliberate about the decision we make,” he said. “We don’t want to have to walk that back.”
Whatever the plan is, “it’s not going to be perfect, but it will be meaningful,” he added.
At the elementary level, a one-size-fits-all isn’t going to work, Eisenhauer said, since each elementary school is a little different. Distance learning could be more of a “building-based” approach, with schools using programs and resources they’re most comfortable with.
But at the junior and high school levels, the plans should look pretty similar.
From caring for sick family members to losing a job, there will be many families dealing with hardships during this time, said board member Lisa Durgin. Because of that, there may be some students who aren’t able to complete their education on time.
Durgin asked that the district make sure there’s “room in whatever plan we create to compensate for some of that.”
The biggest hurdle in providing remote learning opportunities is making sure every student has equal access to education. Not all students have access to reliable internet, or internet in general, and there are students who don’t have laptops or tablets to participate in distance learning.
Brian Knox, director for technology education for the district, said he started doing an inventory of devices last week, and “we do have enough devices if we had to go down that route.”
Knox also has been talking with local internet service providers about providing students with reliable internet access. Those conversations have been “great,” he said, and “they’re willing to support us and find ways to make it work.”
Although technology is a powerful tool, Knox said it’s important to make sure the district doesn’t add more stress to students, families and teachers by giving them something they don’t understand.
“They’ve got enough on their plates,” he said.
There will be many challenges, Knox said, such as figuring out what to do with AP classes, as well as subjects such as music, but “we’ll figure it out.”
The last time the school district changed its education delivery system was a few years ago when it went from block scheduling to seven-period days. It had more than a year to prepare. With this, it’s having to put a plan together in just weeks.
“It’s amazing we’ve come this far this fast,” Lawrence said. “But we have to be prepared for every little thing that can happen.”