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Greenwood school going virtual for next two weeks

Somehow, some way, the Greenwood School District has managed to get through the first 12 weeks of 5-dayper week in-person student instruction without having to close the doors and switch to its virtual option. That said, the COVID-19 positive case and close-contact quarantine numbers have been pushing the limit lately, so the district will take a 2-week break and see where it stands.

Greenwood went to all online education format beginning Nov. 23 and does not plan to see students together with teachers again until Dec. 7. District Administrator Todd Felhofer said the hope is that a short break will help quell the COVID-19 numbers and give the district a better chance of staying open down the road. The school closure will only involve seven instructional days, as classes were not to be held anyway from Nov. 25-29 for the Thanksgiving break.

Felhofer said the positive case/quarantine numbers have not been overwhelming, but the district has been stuck in a pattern where a few dozen kids and a few staff members who are in quarantine are allowed to return, and then another group has to go out.

“If we can maybe slow that down a little bit,” Felhofer said, the district can get back to a point where a full-on closure is not an imminent threat.

“Obviously, we have had a couple of positive cases in each of our buildings,” Felhofer said on Nov. 19. There were approximately 50 students out in the junior/senior high building at various times in the past week and another 40 or so in the elementary.

“We do have a number of teachers out in close contact,” Felhofer added.

Felhofer said school officials decided to take advantage of the built-in holiday break to see if some time away would help alleviate the situation.

“What can we do to just maybe catch a break here?” Felhofer said.

One problem the high number of students in quarantine has created is a double-duty situation for teachers. They have to keep in-person lesson plans going for those students who are in the rooms, but then must also cater on-line to the ones who are at home.

“That’s really two different things to do and you’re trying to prepare it in the same hour,” Felhofer said.

Also, he said, staffing levels are a concern, as the pool of available substitutes is small this year. If a few regular teachers are ill or in quarantine due to close contacts, the district is having difficulty finding qualified adults to

“What can we do to just maybe catch a break here?” -- Greenwood District Administrator Todd Felhofer take over classrooms. Often, Felhofer said, a substitute may be found, but they are not specifically trained for the class subject matter they’re covering. That means students are not getting as much out of the classes as they normally would.

Felhofer said the district has only four or five regular subs on which to count, and it has had multiple teachers unavailable at times.

“The last few weeks, we were pretty close a couple of days” to not having enough staff to conduct classes, Felhofer said.

And, he noted, it’s not just teachers who may be in short supply. The food service, office and janitorial staffs have also had people missing time due to COVID-19.

For the next two weeks, Felhofer said classes will be conducted online, with teachers instructed to present “condensed” versions of lectures, etc., to hold student attention. The district has been teaching in 90-minute blocks to cut down on class interchange traffic, but those are long periods for online learning.

Also, Felhofer said the district is trying to help students who may not have secure online connections. Computer time in the library will be made available to students during the closure, but the numbers will be limited and students should call in for an appointed time.

Felhofer said Greenwood opted against a longer school closure which some schools are taking in the hope that a short pause will be enough to resume regular instruction.

“Getting to the 12th week, I think we’ve done pretty well,” he said. “A lot of other districts were looking to shut down (for longer time periods). We’re trying to be less dramatic, shall we say. We see this as a strategic move right now … If it goes off the rails even more, we could extend it. Our goal is to bring everyone back in person on Dec. 7.”