Our goal from the beginning of the school year has been to keep in-person learning as intact as possible. However, due to a number of positive cases in the community and the school system, we have seen first-hand the dramatic impact just a few cases can have on normal school operations.
The school administration has examined this problem from a number of different angles. We are concerned that returning to 100% in-person learning doesn’t allow the opportunity to physically distance. We have established preventative practices in our daily routines, but as we have recently learned, the only effective practice in preventing a large number of individuals from being placed in quarantine is through physical distancing. Without the ability to establish the needed distance we risk a cycle of full capacity to no capacity each time we are faced with positive cases.
The administration of both the junior high and high school have met with staff to discuss our options. Consistency was one of the areas that was emphasized in helping teachers provide a quality education. By establishing a 50% model we can provide more consistency and avoid using full virtual learning as our solution when cases are reported. We believe our community would also appreciate this consistency.
Over the last few days we have created three groups; an “A” day group that will attend school in-person on Mondays and Wednesdays, a “B” day group that will be in-person on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a third group consisting of students who lack reliable internet access that will attend every day. While at home during their virtual rotation, students will attend classes through synchronous learning and follow their regular schedule. Friday mornings will be utilized to work in-person with students who require additional time to complete assignments and meet academic goals. Friday afternoons will provide teachers with the additional time it takes to manage a blended learning environment.
Careful planning has gone into assigning each group. Consideration was given to balancing class sizes, keeping smaller advanced classes together when possible, dividing the bands to allow effective instruction, keeping teams and family members in the same groups, along with a number of other important factors. Students will be notified of their group assignment in Infinite Campus. Parents will be notified through Infinite Campus Messenger. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, we plan to keep these groups together through Thanksgiving vacation before considering any changes.
This plan is not unique to the Lewistown School District. Most schools with comparable enrollments have been using a similar approach since the beginning of the school year. We feel fortunate to have made it through the first quarter with mostly in-person learning. A lot of thought and planning has gone into creating the most effective means of educating our students while maintaining the necessary protocol to prevent transmission of the virus. We feel the 50% capacity model is the best transitional plan to make in-person learning sustainable and the simplest to transition back into full capacity when the situation improves.
If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact Jeff Friesen for the Junior High School and Paul Bartos or Tim Majerus for Fergus High School.