First SD308 board meeting of the year fast tracks district reopening

“During this process we’ve received criticism, and we’ve received praise … but one thing that has remained the same is that the choices and decisions we have made have been for the best of the students and staff,” Superintendent Dr. John W. Sparlin said at the January 11th meeting.

The SD308 Board of Education gathered for the first meeting of the new year on January 11th to primarily discuss the plan to return to hybrid learning. 

The meeting began with the confirmation of the hybrid dates established for early childhood, elementary, and middle school. The dates to return for these areas of the school district remain as January 19th for early childhood and elementary, as well as January 28th for elementary. As for high school, the date moved from early February to January 28th to align with the junior high schools.

As of right now, 63% of high school students intend to return to hybrid learning, while the remaining 37% have opted out of doing so.

Official parameters that the state laid out were relayed to the board members, such as students and staff being required to wear masks, a complete remote option being offered, and ensuring students will not be at school for longer than five hours without a time or place to eat lunch. 

The main reason why in-person instruction is now allowed but was forbidden in the July meeting was because of the substantial changes in local health parameters.

“In July we were looking at COVID rates and positivity within the community … the new metrics shift from exclusively covering community spread to now include the consistent and correct use of mitigation strategies,” Associate Superintendent for Educational Services Faith Dahlquist said.

These mitigation strategies include enforcing students to follow the state guidelines at all times, as well as practicing social distancing in the hallways with the limited hallway passes and other precautions while inside the building. 

Another crucial metric used that allowed for hybrid learning to take place is monitoring the cases directly connected to in-school transmission. The board claimed that this will be much different from community transmission as it will monitor the spreading of COVID within SD308 on a much more close-knit scale.

Dahlquist concluded this portion with the announcement that all the school and community metrics will be monitored and updated on the district website.

The topic of discussion was opened up following this to discuss what the board labeled as “Phase 2,” which is slated to begin on the original date for high schoolers to return to in-person on February 16th.  The main objective set out to be accomplished with this phase is to further maximize the time for in-person learning, but to minimize the health risks for all students and staff.

The two suggestions set forth both incorporated group A (the first half of alphabetized students in schools) and group B (the second half) only attending two out of the five school days. In the first proposal, one group would be in-school for all eight periods for their two days, with each period lasting 33 minutes and a five minute passing period incorporated. As for the latter, there would be four “blocks” a day for each group, allowing for longer periods of 72 minutes per day. However, each class would only be attended in person once per week in this model.

The board made clear nothing was made official for the second phase in this meeting, indicating that it was merely a work in progress and will be finalized in the near future with parents and students being updated following the decision.

Charles Jaegle is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

Leave a Reply