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Cadott moves to hybrid model, as response to COVID

By Julia Wolf

As the situation with COVID-19 continues, the Cadott School Board met for a special meeting, Nov. 25, to discuss the school instructional format options.

Jenny Starck, superintendent, says the district has worked on a hybrid format, but had not communicated that with parents, as of the meeting time. Starck says, if the board does decide to bring back in-person learning, that it start Wednesday, Dec. 2, or later, so they have time to order food and milk for the students.

Al Sonnentag, board member, says his biggest concern with the virtual format, is some students are not engaging online.

“If we stay virtual...what’s the plan for those kids?” asked Sonnentag. “We can’t just leave them behind.”

Starck says, if they stayed virtual, they would provide transportation for students who are struggling in the afternoon, to come in and have some focus work time. Teachers would be available to help those students.

“Some students, I think, just need, maybe, a quiet place to be able to work, too,” said Starck.

Starck says there would also be an option for students who do not have good internet at home, to come to the school. Those students would be spread out, to social distance. Starck says the option would primarily be open to grades three through 12, with the idea that those students are able to work independently.

Teachers of students struggling, in any grade, can request they attend in the afternoon, for the focus learning time.

Starck said, previously, virtual instruction was in place, because the district no longer had enough staff to teach, but would now be based on county recommendations.

She said, as of the meeting time, they had enough staff that they would be able to have students in the building.

“We aren’t in the same place that we were a couple weeks ago,” said Starck.

Brad Sonnentag, board member, asked Starck to talk about the hybrid system and how soon the district would be ready to roll that out, if the board voted to move forward with hybrid learning.

In the hybrid system, the student body would be split in half, with one group attending school in-person on Monday and Tuesday, and the other group attending in-person on Thursday and Friday. The days students are not attending in-person, they would learn virtually.

Starck says some students who need intervention of special education would attend Wednesdays, but for the most part, everyone would be virtual that day.

Starck says she thinks they could be ready for hybrid learning within a week.

“We’ve got families kind of separated, but we have not contacted them,” said Starck.

She says the districts thinks it is important for families to be in the same group. Starck says she knows they will get some requests for schedule changes, as people watch other’s kids and want to be on the same schedule. She says they will try to honor those requests.

Board member Becca Blanchette asked if there are any disadvantages to the hybrid system. Starck says the coordination to get the system rolling and lesson planning for teachers can be more complicated.

“But, it does allow for some in-person support,” said Starck, adding labs would also be able to be completed.

She says they could also shorten the school day slightly, to allow an hour for teachers to work with students who were learning online that day.

A. Sonnentag says he is concerned that younger students, without parents at home or with parents who are trying to work, will continue to fall further behind. Starck agreed, that learning how to read, especially if the student does not have internet, can be difficult out of a packet and knows virtual learning can be rough for families, more so if both parents are working.

Starck says that is part of the reason, if they decide to stay virtual, they would offer time in the afternoons for students struggling to attend in-person and work with a teacher.

B. Sonnentag says he thinks it is important to pick an option they can sustain through the rest of the year, so there is consistency for families and staff.

Starck says, with how unpredictable COVID- 19 has been, she can’t guarantee that if they go hybrid, the school won’t have to close.

“There’s different levels of risk with each one,” said Starck, of the instructional format options.

A. Sonnentag says he thinks the hybrid plan sounds good in theory, but like a nightmare for teachers.

“That is one of the reasons many districts have not done it (hybrid), because it’s kind of the most complicated to figure out,” said Starck.

Members voted in favor of switching to a hybrid model and ending the school day at 2:30 p.m., to allow teachers time to work with virtual students, starting Monday, Dec. 7. The motion passed with five in favor (Blanchette, B. Sonnentag, Donna Albarado, Ced Boettcher, Rod Tegels) and one opposed (A. Sonnentag).