In a video address last night, Superintendent of Schools David Jeck pledged to provide added in-classroom support for first- and second-grade teachers. He said that teachers have been asking to have “another person in the classroom to help them with the little guys and girls.” Teachers are currently providing in-classroom lessons for two separate cohorts of children four days a week, while at the same time managing students who are logging in from home for remote learning.
Jeck said the effort will require hiring additional substitutes, “bringing them in during the school day to help with those classrooms. Also,” he said, “we're reaching out to classified staff, because we do have a dual-employment option for classified staff in Fauquier County. [Classified staff include employees who do not need certification or licensure to be qualified for their job. Examples of classified staff include school nutrition workers, bus drivers, instructional assistants, custodians and office associates.] They have two jobs; they can drive a bus, for example, and then go to the school and work in classrooms, or cafeteria or whatever…”
“We are [also] looking to expand the internet cafe option for students. And that's going to also require supervision.”
Jeck asked parents who might be able to volunteer in a classroom or for an internet café to reach out to school principals. He said, “it would be greatly appreciated, and it would help us immensely.”
Proposed 50/50 learning model abandoned
At the Nov. 23 school board meeting, Superintendent of Schools David Jeck briefed members of the board on a new instructional plan that would have doubled the amount of synchronous learning children would receive – increasing direct teacher to student learning from two days to four. But in Tuesday’s video address, Jeck said the plan – which would have started Jan. 9 – has been scrapped.
School board members expressed concern with the plan at a Nov. 23 meeting. They worried that the problems that exist with remote learning would only be exacerbated if children were required to log in for learning more frequently.
Stephanie Litter-Reber (Lee District), Susan Pauling (Center District) and Donna Grove (Cedar Run District) all agreed that “the little guys” – elementary school students -- are having the most trouble with remote learning.
Litter-Reber said that it is difficult for parents who are working from home – or have to leave the home to work. “They can’t be there to help their child.” The 50/50 plan is “going to make everything worse” because students are expected to log in four days a week during the regular workday.
Pauling said that she fears with the remote instruction model, children “who love to learn are now lying under their desks. It’s robbing their joy.”
Jeck said, “There really is very little support from the school board to 50/50, which I completely understand after looking at the different barriers associated with moving to 50/50. Mostly they're technology related. Streaming every day from classrooms and into homes is going to be a monumental challenge. And frankly, we just have many, many homes that just simply can't do it.
“Even with … the hotspots we provide to families, each of those hotspots has sort of a weekly ceiling or monthly storage ceiling. And you eat that up quickly, especially if you have more than one child at home streaming. And that's just a huge barrier for us. And it's a huge barrier under that current hybrid model, to be honest.
“So that, plus the fact that we still have thousands of devices -- mainly Chromebooks -- on backorder… And without devices in kids’ hands, reliable devices that they can carry to and from school, for example. It's just not doable.”
Jeck added, “So I'm not recommending to the board any change to the model, I'm only sharing with the board that we are going to make it better. And we've been talking to principals in the last couple of weeks about strategies for improving the current hybrid model.
“One of the biggest being, we've got to bring all kids into the instructional fold. And we've got to figure out ways, creative ways, out-of-the-box ways to make sure that this has happened. Because we have a lot of kids that just are not participating for whatever reason. … schools … know who these students are, who we're not effectively meeting with, communicating with and instructing. And mainly that's tied to technology. So principals are strategizing ways to bring kids into the instructional fold, and to make it a more meaningful experience.”
Jeck said, “One of the positives of sticking with the current hybrid model is the alleviation of a lot of stress. I will just say very candidly that once we presented this information to the school board, and I shared with principals and teachers, for example, that this was something we were considering, it heightened folks' stress. I think it would also be a stressor for students, especially if they have technology issues at home. We don't want to be the cause of more stress in your homes.”
Survey for parents
Jeck also said that a survey -- related to transportation and choice between the hybrid versus all-virtual – has been sent to families. “We need this information to arrange transportation and class configurations going into second term… It's gonna be a short turnaround on that. So we ask for your cooperation in completing that survey.”
When schools reopen in January, Jan. 4 and 5 will be teacher work days. Jan. 6 will be an asynchronous day for students; Jan. 7, will be an A day for students and Jan. 8 would be a B day for students.