Marshall Public Schools discusses COVID-19 at special end-of-year BOE meeting

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Mindi Coslet and Amy Carney presented a PowerPoint to the Marshall Public Schools’ Board of Education providing a list of various recommendations for the fall re-entry into the 2020-2021 academic school year.

During the board’s special end-of-year meeting on Monday evening, June 29, Diane Gillaspie, director of curriculum, stated the district’s COVID-19 task force wanted to share a few things with the board before starting the new school year.

Gillaspie explained over 50 staff members have been meeting and trying to figure out the best way to share this information with the board, as well as Superintendent Carol Maher and Assistant Superintendent Terry Lorenz.

“This could not have been done without the task force chairs that are here this evening,” Gillaspie said, referring to Coslet and Carney. “Their goal was to have as much input from the task force subgroups … Last Thursday the task force met with the building level leaders for their concerns and thoughts … At the end of the day, we all know there are still many details that would have to be worked out at each individual building.”

However, Gillaspie stated the building leaders are willing to stand behind the recommendations Coslet and Carney would share during the PowerPoint presentation.

According to the unofficial meeting minutes, Gillaspie noted 80 staff members responded to a survey, which was sent out on Friday, June 26, in regard to COVID-19. Additionally, she said several members within the community responded to a different survey which had been sent out prior to the one that was made for faculty and staff.

“This data was used extensively in trying to understand what our community wants and what their concerns are as we move forward in this pandemic,” Gillaspie explained. “The task force understands these are recommendations. That they are not being voted on this evening, and the final recommendation will come from the superintendent … Their goal this entire time has been to have a voice to be heard and considered.”

Carney stated she knows the task force cannot make everyone happy, but it can make a plan to make sure everyone learns. She added this is the job of an educator.

“We want to reach every kid wherever they are and make sure that they’re learning,” Carney said. “To keep in mind, we’re going to get through this and we’re going to get through this together.”

Coslet noted surveys were broken down with community feedback to see what stood out the most.

“We had 886 responses, and 73 of those people were parents,” she said. “Seventy-four percent of the respondents wanted school to start as normal as possible with some social distancing.”

As Coslet continued to read from the first PowerPoint slide, she added the other statistics from the community survey included the following:

— 13 percent indicated they wanted 100 percent virtual learning

— 48 percent replied they wanted district support in using Google platforms and technology

— 7.4 percent said if given the choice, their student would not be returning in the fall

— 13 percent indicated their student has an underlying health condition; 23 percent said someone else in the house has an underlying health condition

— 60 percent of parents indicated that sanitation was their main concern

After some discussion and going over the statistics, Coslet and Carney presented a summary of a blended week:

1. In-seat students — Four days in seat instruction; one day of distance learning; and provide the opportunity to become familiar with distance learning expectations and format

2. Full-time distance learners — Access to instruction from MPS teachers and MPS curriculum; one day devoted to face-to-face interaction with teachers, as needed; and time assessments and feedback from teachers

3. Teachers — Prepare for both in-seat and distance instruction; on the “fifth day” provide feedback and individualized instruction for distance learners; continued PD on technology and Google; and replacing previous collaboration schedule

Some board members expressed their concerns with these recommendations and asked many questions. Board member Christy Varner expressed a concern for families who might not have someone at home to provide for those students during the blended week, especially watching those students on that extra day that the district has for distance learning.

“We also had a big concern of being unable to learn at home … and some of them are with those families that don’t have supervision,” she said. “So my concern is going to be those families. How are we going to take care of those, because four days probably isn’t going to work for them.”

Board President Erin Meyer explained her concern would be about overtaxing the teachers in the district.

Unofficial meeting minutes stated no final decision was made.

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