Big distance-learning decisions coming for Garfield Re-2
With the stay at home order continuing at least through the end of April Garfield School District Re-2 discusses plans for distance learning and graduation
The Re-2 school board, district officials and school principals had a lengthy discussion during Tuesday’s virtual school board meeting on the next steps for the district with the continued stay at home order in the state of Colorado.
Julie Knowles, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment, said with the extension of Gov. Polis’ order the district needs to begin thinking about the need for phase 2 of distance learning — and the importance of it.
“The one thing we are continually learning is that we have to respond in a very nimble way,” Knowles said.
The district is just wrapping up its second week of distance learning, which was launched April 6 through Google Classroom.
“Our systems at work for the last four years is what has helped the launch be successful,” Knowles said.
Knowles and the district have been researching what is going on across the country, the state and as well as our neighbors in both Parachute and the Roaring Fork Valley for ideas in the designing the phase 2.
“We still have to be extremely sensitive to the wide variety of needs that our families have, and the struggles that are very real to be working from home, providing child care, making sure the kids are accessing their education, competition for bandwidth, or some other adverse life experience some of our kids may be having right now,” Knowles said.
The plan is to continue to focus on the quality of work, not the quantity of work, and the district resolved that remote learning should not have an adverse impact on student grades.
With phase 2 Knowles said they would continue to focus on the instructional model of the teaching and learning cycle. Traditional grading practice would still be suspended, and no set number of assignments will be given.
For Coal Ridge and Rifle high school principals Jackie Davis and John Arledge the worry is whether students will participate in distance learning if they are not being graded for the work.
“We cannot just go with third quarter grades, we have to do something in order to show proficiency for these kiddos moving on to either college or the next three years. If we don’t do something we are going to be messing up the kiddos’ credits,” Davis said.
Both schools are showing a high percentage of students that are enrolled on Google Classroom but are having a hard time gaging participation.
“Most of our kids like Coal Ridge are engaged in some capacity, the problem at this point, finding out what engagement is. They could be just hooking on to Google Classroom and then doing nothing,” Arledge said.
One of the biggest issues the school is running into is that high school students say there is no reason to do the work if it is not being graded.
Both Davis and Arledge are seeing engagement with seniors, but juniors or younger are not interested if they are not receiving credit.
“At this point what is important to understand is that we have them hooked. I think at the high school level if we do not act within the next week we are going to lose the vast majority of our kids,” Arledge said.
Another hot topic Tuesday night was graduation plans and what each school plans to do as the original scheduled dates for both Coal Ridge and Rifle high schools are a month away.
Interim Superintendent Heather Grumley said there has been a lot of angst in regards to celebrations for the kids in some way.
“These seniors have lost a lot on so many layers, how do we ultimately honor those kids in the best way we can,” Grumley said.
Both school principals and staff have solicited feedback from groups of seniors on what they would possibly like to see happen.
“Coal Ridge is kind of excited about a potential plan B,” Jackie Davis said.
They have done a lot of research on what it would take to do a virtual graduation, with families hosting watch parties and the school hosting a senior night when restrictions are hopefully lifted in June or July.
“I think that these kids are so special that they should get two parties,” Davis said.
“It’s going to be one of those years where we need to allow the school a little bit of leniency to do their own thing all in honoring and celebrating these kids for all of the hard work that they have done and completed over the last 13 years, if you count preschool.”
As for Rifle High School, Principal John Arledge said that he met with a group of seniors last week, and they want to hold out for a possible traditional graduation during the summer, but also hold something a little different in May marking the original date of graduation.
“It’s kind of a flip between Coal Ridge and Rifle in the sense that they would like to do something in May to celebrate when graduation should have happened,” Arledge said
Arledge said the seniors would like a graduation/prom week, and If that didn’t happen they would do a virtual graduation later in the summer.
“Them leaving on March 14 was not the last day they should spend in high school. It’s not their defining moment at Rifle High School. They did not leave like I or the rest of the staff wants to see them leave,” Arledge said.
SCHOOL CALENDAR APPROVED
In an action item the school board approved the 2020-21 school calendar, with the school slated to start a week later than usual on Aug. 17, with the year running through June 3.
The adoption of the calendar will be a two-year plan with the same calendar for the 2021-22 school year.
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Current events have some valley teachers feeling like the stakes of their profession have never been higher.