The Fairfield School board approved finishing the 2019-2020 school year via remote learning at a special board meeting on May 11.
The board approved the plan after receiving input from the Fairfield school administration. The school district began the off-site curriculum on March 16 because of health concerns associated with the novel 2019 coronavirus.
Superintendent Les Meyer said the administration’s recommendation was based on several factors, taking into consideration the guidelines that would need to be adhered to and how those could be safely accomplished. The top priority was the safety of students, their families and the district’s staff.
Meyer spoke of the service the school district is providing by offering breakfast and lunch to students. Opening the campus and bringing more people into the mix, Meyer said, would raise the potential for someone in the kitchen to be exposed to or infected with COVID-19 resulting in a 14-day quarantine period for that person and potentially the entire crew. This could result in stopping or hindering the food service that is benefiting 200-plus students.
He also emphasized timing was important. Given that students could be allowed to return onsite starting on May 7 but more than likely wouldn’t return until Monday, May 11, the distribution of instructional time would not outweigh the benefits. “Realistically, with less than a month remaining in the year, we considered it would take a week to implement having the students back in school and the final week is generally used for wrapping up the year. That just left only a few days the students would really settle into a basic instructional period,” Meyer said.
In keeping with social distancing guidelines, the district would have also needed to consider a rotation system to accommodate the number of students allowed in each classroom. Plus, families would have had the option to elect not to have their students return. That combination had the potential to increase the workload for teachers who have already gone above and beyond to make remote learning work.
“There was concern, too, from staff members who would still be at risk,” Meyer said.
Meyer said distance learning for the most part has gone well, given the circumstances. “We have reached that point in the school year when students are reaching their limit of school, whether we are in the building or doing remote instruction. … We have just a few more weeks to complete the year,” he added.
He praised the staff, students and their parents for making the best of a tough way to end the year. “The teachers have been the driving force behind making this work,” Meyer said. “They miss their students and would be happy to have them back and school but want to do what is best for their safety with the least amount of disruption.”
“We all realize staying the course is hard on families, but for the most part, the feedback the school district received was in favor of continuing as we are doing now for the remainder of the year,” Meyer said.
During the special meeting the board approved a declaration of emergency to continue to receive all state funding, including transportation funding and continue with the district plan for distance learning.
They also reviewed and adopted a series of policies associated with the COVID-19 emergency.