Warren County schools seek feedback on reopening

Derrick Forsythe
Staff Writer

As it continues to compile the details for its fall reopening plan, the Warren County R-III School District is seeking feedback and welcoming questions from the community.

The R-III School Board will meet on July 23 to create a reopening plan that will be issued later that evening. Taken into consideration during that discussion will be feedback from patrons of the district, including concerns shared over the past week.

R-III sent out a single-question survey last week, simply asking, ‘Do you have any questions about reopening school?’”

Superintendent Dr. Gregg Klinginsmith said the district fielded approximately 165 questions, focused around how virtual school would look as well as the safety of students. It’s all part of planning for a return to buildings amid ongoing concerns of COVID-19.

“We’ve got a work session planned to make decisions about what direction to take,” said Klinginsmith. “Right now we’re having conversations about what the health department is telling us and are meeting with building administrators regularly.”

The district has also gauged the interest of students in doing virtual school as opposed to returning to the buildings for fall semester. Klinginsmith said about 10 percent of the enrollment expressed a possible preference toward learning from home during the fall. That’s in range with the 10 to 15 percent feedback districts across the state are receiving, Klinginsmith said.

“We are trying to give students options, because we believe that’s going to be key to reopening in the fall,” said Klinginsmith. “Students can learn exclusively from home or come to school full time, or just come to school for a few classes and return home to learn. I don’t think those options will go away.”

While COVID-19 prompted the transition to virtual learning, Klinginsmith said the system has demonstrated advantages that can be used beyond the pandemic.

“Some people are going to see this change as bad, but I think it’s an opportunity for education to grow as an industry,” said Klinginsmith. “I see this as a model we could use for the future — a new frontier. I anticipate it will go well.”

He said the focus will be on delivering the same curriculum and experience to students regardless of the format through which they are learning.

“In the high school, the content will be the same whether students are learning in person or virtually,” said Klinginsmith. “We want to have continuity of the content and instruction, so kids could be absent and still log on and be in contact with peers and teachers at school. The teacher would record a lesson, and the main content would then be uploaded into the learning matrix system so kids could review over and over as needed.”

There are many decisions yet to be made, and for which the district will need more information. Among the topics to be discussed during the upcoming meeting are transportation, scheduling and how the high school design will work to prevent large gatherings.

Klinginsmith anticipates that the fall sports season will play on as planned. He noted that even students who choose to learn virtually from home would have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities.

“As long as they get their three credits a semester, they would be eligible to play sports,” said Klinginsmith, who added that recess and physical education will also take place at the schools.

Some details could continue to change as the school start date approaches. This includes the procedure used for contact tracing in the event of a positive case of COVID-19, and the delivery of virtual school. The district is also undecided on whether masks will be required to be worn by staff and students.

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