Wright City School District modifying schedules, structure

By: 
Derrick Forsythe
Staff Writer

For first-year Superintendent Dr. Chris Berger, even the smallest victories are of significance during the most uncertain times of his educational career.

Campuses across the Wright City R-II School District welcomed students back on Aug. 24 for the first time in over five months. The seated learning model looks a lot different than it did when the spring semester was abruptly disrupted by a global pandemic.

“The simple fact that we’ve got 80 percent of kids on campus in a routine and able to see teachers face to face, along with having guaranteed meals, is a success,” said Berger. “When you look at the nuts and bolts of school operation, we’re doing well. Just the fact that we started on our target date.”

The other 20 percent of students have chosen to learn via the virtual model, a platform overhauled since its inception in late March.

“We were faced with the challenge down the stretch of accurately identifying the divide and preparing for the virtual and the seated population,” said Berger. “In our region, the virtual option was a little higher than anticipated.”

The school surveyed families in early August to gauge preference between the learning models. As new information became available, decisions began to sway.

“From the time we surveyed parents until that first day of school, a lot of perceptions had changed,” said Berger. “We started school with the top end of what our projection was.”

Given the increased complexity of learning some subjects virtually versus in-person, more class assignment modifications than usual kept staff busy the first few weeks.

“Any given year outside of COVID you’re going to have some schedule changes for a variety of reasons,” said Berger. “With that 20 percent virtual population the schedule adjustments we had to make were later in the year and involved more kids. We’re probably a week delayed more than usual. I feel like our schedules are set, and we would have liked to have said that a week ago.”

Berger says one of the challenges for teachers is determining when students are in the proper frame of mind to begin learning. Part of the first two weeks has been assessing the deficits caused by the extended break.

“As an educator there’s a little bit of uncomfortableness in where we’re at in teaching curriculum,” said Berger. “I think our teachers feel like our kids are ready and routines are built.”

The district’s initial focus was on addressing social-emotional needs that may have been impacted by COVID and related disruptions. While those concerns will continue to be monitored, the normalcy of a curriculum will gradually increase.

“I would hope that in next two to three weeks we’ll really hit our rhythm where the kids are receiving instruction and everything is going really smooth and we feel like we’re able to deliver a lot of curriculum and instruction effectively,” said Berger.

R-II is also identifying the predicaments presented by hosting sporting events amidst COVID restrictions. Wright City High School held its senior night festivities for soccer, softball and volleyball last week, with the first home football game being held on Friday.

“With the onset of all those activities, I would quantify that we were in the 80-percent compliance rate,” said Berger. “We’ve worked through any issues we had and made an after-action plan, committing to doing some things better moving forward.”

Events will have a limited attendance policy, with each participant receiving a quantity of tickets. Berger anticipates the biggest challenges to exist with indoor sports, as the outdoor complex provides an opportunity for spectators to watch from outside the fence.

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