Now that the 2019–2020 academic year is over, the focus for school districts county-wide is on what the structure of the 2020–2021 academic year will look like and how accommodate students, teachers and families with the COVID-19 outbreak.
At a Board of Education meeting on July 7, Groton Central School District Superintendent Margo Martin shared some of the data collected from a survey that was distributed to the community. The survey, which received over 200 responses, was created to gage the thoughts of families in the district are regarding how education should be executed during the next academic year.
One frequent comment left on the survey were worries from parents about the burden they faced with assisting their child’s education this past spring semester.
“As much as parents were able to do in the spring, they had grave concerns about being able to continue that effort,” Martin said. “There was a lot of fatigue and frustration voiced in those surveys regarding what parents were going to be able to do.”
“The other thing that came through loud and clear is parents felt their ability to be able to stay with it was going to drop off as their personal work lives picked back up,” Martin added. “That they were all returning to work. So in the spring, they were, everyone was home together, they were already anticipating that shift that they wouldn’t be home or their work expectations were going to be picking back up. They made it very clear that as much as we could have students in our buildings, that is the plan that they are overwhelmingly in support of.”
The survey also asked parents how many of them currently intend to continue with remote learning. The results of that question were that less than 10 percent said they intend to continue with remote learning.
The district is planning on issuing another survey to the community in the near future once it has finalized the specifics for the types of education models it is considering and have those details approved by the teachers. Emphasizing the possibility that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo could instate a specific model, Martin said the district’s instructional committee is leaning towards a hybrid model where students come to school in shifts – either they come in the morning or the afternoon.
“What that timing of that shift will look like – and whether it’s a set shift of instruction and then we can extend the shift on a rotating basis for kids to do remediation and address the gaps that we all have developed as a result of the remote learning in the spring, or whether it’s just a straight two-shifts model – those are the nuts and bolts we’re hoping to work out tomorrow [July 8],” she said.
“We’re moving towards seeing kids every day,” she said later in the meeting. “The teachers really, really thought that that was important, to keep kids engaged, to build relationships with kids, especially at the beginning of the school year when kids are walking into a classroom not knowing who their teacher is. We thought that it was very important that they saw that teacher as much as possible.”
She also said this has been discussed with the transportation department and anticipates there being no issues on that front.
“We know that we can do the worst-case scenario, which is six different runs during the day; six different times we’re running our buses,” she said. “And we can make that happen with our transportation department. … We said, ‘What’s the worst possible transportation scenario we’re looking at, and what if we had to be running kids back and forth and we had to run our buses six different times? Can we still make it work without any increase in cost to the taxpayers,’ and yes, we can.”
To address the issue of schedule conflicts with children and their parents, Martin said the district has been in contact with the YMCA of Ithaca to inquire whether or not it could expand its daycare wraparound services.
Ensuring that the students receive the proper amount of support to complete any remote work will be a priority for the district as well.
“We’re evolving modulate components that we might be able to plug in place,” Maslin said. “So if it were something that was virtual, or just stuff that just wasn’t here, what does that really look like? Do we actually have to do something that requires them to get on a computer and be on the network? … One of the things I worry about is many of our families are dual-income families in terms of the parents, which means we don’t really know, and the parent doesn’t really know, what’s expected during that day and what if the childcare provider or the grandma can’t get him on his Chromebook. We try to solve those problems at the same time to try to make sure that what we’re asking of those pieces when kids aren’t in-person are manageable and they make good sense.”