Danville schools to return to hybrid learning Jan. 25

McDonald says it will “…take years for our students to catch up after this pandemic.”

Students in the Danville School District will be returning to the hybrid A/B learning model on Monday, Jan. 25.

At Wednesday’s Danville Board of Education meeting members voted unanimously to open the buildings to in-person learning based on a number of factors, the most important one being that students are suffering academically.

“I do know it’s going to take years for our students to catch up after this pandemic,” said Superintendent Dr. Tammy McDonald. “Students are falling behind more than we anticipated.”

McDonald said there are always a few students who fail in a nine-week grading period. “It seems through the pandemic that percentage is increasing. Virtual learning is hurting our students academically.”

She said not only teachers, but other staff members including bus drivers and monitors, are trying to “engage” students to keep them interested in learning, and checking on their emotional wellbeing. “They are going well above and beyond,” she explained.

Board member Wade Stanfield said, “Man, we’re asking our teachers to do superhuman stuff,” and wanted to make sure to give them credit for their work.

However, “Virtual learning is just hard on our students,” McDonald said.

“As an educator, as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, I am torn as we have this discussion because I want to also play it safe. But I also understand our students are suffering academically and socially,” McDonald said.

As time goes by, and students don’t login to class or complete online assignments, and younger students’ completed assignments may not be their own work, the academic “gap is growing wider everyday,” McDonald explained.

“Especially for our minority students and our economically disadvantaged students. The gap seems to be widening quicker with those groups.”

McDonald told the board many school districts in the region are going back to hybrid learning or are at least making the decision to return sometime soon.

Also, she said Health Department Director Brent Blevins said the district’s plan for Healthy at School Guidelines was a good one. In fact, because of the protocols put into place, there haven’t been any positive COVID-19 cases in the schools when they were in session during the fall, and when sports were being played, McDonald said. There had been quarantines but no outbreaks, she added.

The A/B hybrid plan divides students into A and B groups. Students in group A will attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays for face-to face instruction in the school building and have three days of distance learning. Students in group B will attend Thursdays and Fridays and have three days of distance learning.

Wednesdays will be reserved for deep cleaning of the school facilities, teacher planning, enrichment, intervention and some specialized face-to-face student services.

Board Chair Steve Becker said, “We can’t wait another month.” He said it was important that students get back to in-person learning as soon as possible, and to give extra attention to those students who have fallen behind. It’s a problem that school district all across the state are facing too, he added.

In other school board business the board:
• Formalized listing the old Jennie Rogers Elementary School property as surplus and gave McDonald approval to advertise a request for sealed bids from potential buyers. School attorney Vince Pennington told the board bids would be accepted for three weeks, meaning that the soonest the board could sell the property would be by mid to late February.
Once the bids are opened and the highest bid was accepted, the Kentucky Department of Education would still have to approve the sale, but it was more of a formality, Pennington said.
When asked if the board wanted to control what the property should be used for when accepting a bid, it voted unanimously not to put any strings on the sale.
• Re-elected Becker and board member Troy McCowan to second two-year term as board chair, and vice-chair, respectively.
• Voted to pay for ACT tests for all sophomores.
• Discussed the district’s teacher recruitment plan and videos being produced for in-person job fairs and for a strong online presence.