The Dutton/Brady School Board at a special video meeting on April 27 approved students not returning to in-person school for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year at the Dutton campus and gave approval for in-person schooling to resume at the Midway and Pondera colonies, upon approval of the colonies’ German teachers.
After reviewing Gov. Steve Bullock’s directives for schools opening and gathering input from staff, Superintendent Erica Allen said she believes it is in the district’s best interest to continue remote learning from May 7-19. “Our present off-site learning model is working, and the minimal educational gain from returning to school does not exceed the health risks to staff, students and the community,” Allen said.
Allen said before making the recommendation to continue distance learning, she gathered information from the staff. “Teachers have worked hard to make remote learning effective,” Allen said. “It would be difficult for staff and students to shift gears again, at a time when, historically, students aren’t engaged in education and learning new procedures. Because of this, learning would be less effective in these last weeks.”
She also noted, teaching and enforcing the many safety procedures required for students to return to school would take a lot of time that could be better used for education. Allen said several staff members have substantial health and safety concerns for students, the community and themselves returning at this time.
Additionally, one-on-one video meetings (or meetings between three people) are working to help to meet the needs of struggling students.
The district will have students drop off their Chromebooks and other materials and pick up any personal items left at the school on May 20 and 21. The students will be given scheduled time slots to return items in keeping with social distancing guidelines.
On the flip side, the board approved the return of in-person lessons at the two colony schools if the colonies’ German teachers agreed and all the directives outlined by the governor could be met. A teacher at one of the colonies said this allows for the students to return to the classroom setting and still observe social distance.
The board agreed with the plans to move forward with high school graduation on May 17 as originally planned. Allen’s recommendation was to hold the ceremony for the two seniors in the school auditorium with only their immediate families in attendance. The ceremony would not be open to the public but would be live streamed.
The board left it up to the administration to work out details to for holding eighth grade and kindergarten graduations. They felt comfortable with the school administrators working out details for each ceremony with parents keeping social distancing guidelines in place. It was also suggested ceremonies for the eighth grade and kindergarten could possibly be held in the fall.
Both the academic and athletic ceremonies will be held on their regularly scheduled days and times, but will be live streamed. “We will then hand out physical awards when students come to the school on the last two days to drop off their things,” Allen said.
In a follow-up message to district families, Allen thanked the parents and the community for all their support during these unprecedented events. “We are writing a new page in our history books and reinventing the wheel as we go,” she said. “Please know that our decisions are made keeping our students’ best interests in mind. We look forward to making the most of our year-end celebrations and starting next year with a big celebration.”
The board reviewed district policies and made any alterations to keep in line with coronavirus and distance learning guidelines.
One such change was to suspend community use of district facilities until June 30. Unless an event is specifically identified as necessary by the board, Facilities Use Agreements and other similar requests submitted won’t be considered during this public health emergency. This includes use of the weight room and gym.
Superintendent Allen asked for direction from the board in seeking candidates for positions open for the 2020-21 school year. Key among those positions is elementary principal and school counselor, currently held by Leslee Weber, who is retiring at the end of the school year. Allen said the school meets accreditation standards with just one administrator and a half-time counselor. With that said, Allen could serve as both superintendent and principal for the district and look to hire the counselor position. She also noted they could look at outside services for the hiring of a counselor.
Following discussion, the board elected to advertise for the position as it currently stands, half-time principal and counselor. If no viable candidate is found, they will consider other options.