Better To Have Made Decision
Last updated 7/22/2020 at 3:52pm
Like all school boards in North Carolina, the Transylvania County Board of Education faces a difficult decision in determining how to reopen school this fall. Whether or not it decides to open schools on Aug. 17 under Plan B, a hybrid model in which students would spend part of their time on campus and part of their time learning remotely from home, or under Plan C, in which all learning will be done remotely, there will be students, teachers, parents and residents who are displeased with the decision.
In reality, what the decision boils down to is whether or not the school system is going to implement Plan B. School systems had to submit remote learning plans to the state this past Monday, July 20. In essence, the skeleton of Plan C has already been completed and putting the final pieces in place within the next two weeks before teachers return to work is quite feasible.
Plan B, however, is a different beast and will require vast amounts of information, planning and communication to successfully implement. If the school board chooses Plan B, it also will have to determine which option under Plan B will be implemented. Will students go to school just two days a week and be home for the other three or will they come to school for an entire week and then be home the next week? That certainly will affect arrangements that parents have to make for when their children are home.
School board member Courtney Domokur threw another possibility into the mix of having elementary schools operate under Plan B, with middle and high school students learning remotely. This idea has a great deal of merit because, based on medical evidence at this time, younger children are less likely to become infected or infect others. While nearly all students benefit from being on campus and interacting directly with their teachers and peers, it is particularly vital for the youngest students, who are just learning how to socialize and learn the fundamentals – reading, writing, mathematics – that they will need throughout their education. Yet, that option was not really discussed by board members last Monday.
If the school board decides to go with Plan B, school administrators must find out which students are going to stay at home and learn remotely 100 percent of the time and which plan to come to school. Of the latter, they’ll have to decide which students will attend on the first two days and which students will attend on the last two days of the week. Will the school system give parents a preference or will they just assign students the days they will be on campus?
That information will affect bus routes. Those routes can’t be determined until it is known which students plan to ride buses and on which days those students will be attending school.
Once that information is obtained, administrators will have to determine which teachers are teaching certain classes. For example, what happens if 70 percent of freshmen attend in-person but only 30 percent of seniors do?
These are just a few of the hundreds of questions – several of which board members asked Monday night – that need to be answered before schools can open under Plan B.
After all those questions are answered, the school board would need to undertake a massive public information campaign to let students, parents and residents know exactly how things would operate.
Due to the considerations listed above, the school board should have made a decision Monday night. If the board had chosen Plan B and selected one of the three options presented by Superintendent Jeff McDaris or the option presented by Domokur, then school administrators would have had an extra week to gather the requisite information and determine bus routes and teacher assignments based on that information.
It also would have given parents more time to not only decide what to do with their children, but also consider how to make their children’s school schedule dovetail with their work schedules. Such decisions are incredibly important and complicated, and their impacts could be far-ranging for both parents and children.
A week does not seem very long, but with school starting on Aug. 17, administrators, teachers, parents and students need as much time as possible to make the right decisions and then work out the details of implementing those decisions.