Daviess County Public Schools will start the 2020-21 school year on Aug. 26 using an A/B schedule for in-person learning — with hopes to transition to five days a week if possible — in addition to offering a Virtual Academy. The Board of Education approved the plan Monday after listening to roughly an hour of public comments and concerns.
Following the meeting, the reopening plan was sent by email to all DCPS families and is posted on the district website here with a link also shared on the district’s Facebook and social media pages.
Families will receive a second email on Wednesday that will include a link to a Family Decision Form. Parents and guardians are asked to submit that form by Aug. 3 indicating whether they wish for their child(ren) to enroll in In-Person Instruction (A-B Schedule) or Virtual Academy when school begins.
The two learning options that will be used for the upcoming school year are:
- A “stop light” model with three methods based around in-person instruction:
- Green — In-person classes five days per week
- Yellow — A/B schedule, hybrid of in-person and non-traditional instruction (NTI)
- Red — NTI learning
- A Virtual Academy that is online only and separate from NTI
The board said while DCPS will begin the year under the yellow method of the stop light model, they hope to transition to the green method of five-day-per-week in-person instruction after a few weeks.
Board members said the situation would be reevaluated once school begins. The stop light model allows them to remain fluid and switch between instruction methods as necessary.
The A/B schedule would split those students that are not in the Virtual Academy into two groups. Group A will attend in-person classes on Mondays and Tuesdays and utilize hybrid learning (NTI) from home on Thursdays and Fridays. Group B would do the opposite. No students would attend Wednesdays, which would be for digital learning (with exception for weeks that are shortened).
If families choose the DCPS Virtual Academy, it will be for the entire semester. It is recommended students grades K-2 do not enroll in the academy. DCPS officials have previously noted that the Virtual Academy would not be like NTI. Instead, there would be a set schedule for teaching Monday-Friday, and there would be rigorous coursework in core subjects.
More than a dozen speakers addressed the board during the public comment portion of the meeting, with about 100 people total in attendance.
One of the biggest concerns from speakers revolved around the children with special needs and how important it is for them to have in-person instruction.
Rick Ebelhar and his wife have four children, the oldest of which has special needs.
“I’m here to advocate for the population that seems to be forgotten, and that is the special needs population,” he told the board.
Ebelhar said the daily interaction his daughter has at school is instrumental in her development. In the absence of that, she falls behind.
“To say that she has regressed in her development would be an understatement,” Ebelhar said. “She has barely left her room for a month. She needs normalization. She needs a routine. She needs a schedule. She needs her friends.”
He said his daughter also doesn’t learn nearly as well at home, but she thrives at school.
“As a person with Down syndrome, she was on an education path to receive a diploma,” Ebelhar said. “The longer she stays out of a classroom .. that chance goes down for her.”
Several other parents and caregivers echoed his sentiments about the need for students with special needs to be in the classroom.
Other recurring concerns from speakers were about child care, limited access to the internet, the struggle to teach children at various education levels within the same household, and the inefficiency of NTI.
A handful of speakers also presented statistics and studies done by national organizations. They pointed out that children are the least affected age group for COVID-19, meaning they should be able to go to school full time.
In essence, all the speakers were advocating for the schools to reopen with in-person classes five days per week.
“We heard the concerns of everyone today,” said board chair Tom Payne. “I would agree that the special education population, and indeed all kids, are deserving of the best education that we can offer.”
DCPS Superintendent Matt Robbins said they are working with different organizations, including non-profits and churches, to expand child care options but nothing has been finalized.
Robbins said he and the Board of Education appreciate the input they have received from families and members of the community.
“We remain committed to our mission of putting ‘Kids First’ in everything we do,” Robbins said. “That includes providing meaningful learning experiences for all students, and ensuring the safety, health and well-being of every child entrusted to our care.”