Online learning focus of HSSD board meeting
By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – With the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in Brown County, the Howard-Suamico school board learned of the district’s latest efforts to keep things running smoothly.
At the Monday, April 27, school board meeting, Dr. Becky Walker, assistant superintendent of academics and innovation, said, from an academic standpoint, the district is working on finishing the school year with virtual learning as best as it can.
“Our main goal is the social and emotional wellness of our students and our staff,” Walker said. “As we move into Phase 2 – which means the rest of the school year – we want to make sure everyone is taking care of themselves and staying healthy and at the same time maintaining the learning momentum at home.”
As a result, there has been a change to the online structure, with Mondays and Fridays now more focused on social and emotional wellness and the middle of the week set aside for academic instruction, she said.
“They (students) were feeling overloaded, which drained on social and emotional wellness,” Walker said. “We pulled back and changed what the days look like.”
The district has also decided what it will do with grading for online course work for the rest of the school year.
Walker said parents of K-6 students will no longer receive a proficiency report on report cards, but instead will receive a narrative of student learning from the teacher.
At the 7-12 grade levels, she said students will have the option of taking a letter grade, or selecting a pass/incomplete for their completed courses.
Walker said those who select the pass/incomplete will not have GPAs affected by the decision.
At the same time, Walker said the core content areas of math and literacy will now be the main focus.
“A lot of things we planned on students learning by the end of the year become more difficult,” she said. “The core content areas are narrowed down to the essentials that we’re going to do by the end of the school year, so we’re prepared for what those gaps will be.”
Bay Port Principal Mike Frieder said 85-90 percent of high school students are engaged in online assignments, which is comparable to in-person instruction.
Frieder said this is because high school teachers are more focused on connections with students.
“One of the things our teachers are doing more now than they did before is realizing how important those connections are with kids, and the impact they have,” he said.
One of the ways the district connects with families and students already expanded.
“We literally are at capacity with how much food storage ability we have, also at some of the sites we’ve had traffic issues where people are picking up,” he said.
Spets also announced an agreement with Bellin Health to provide additional meals to the district at a cost of $1.40 each, packaged and delivered.
He also informed the board that plans for Strategy 2035, the district’s next possible referendum question, are changing amid the pandemic, even with some restrictions on non-essential businesses being lifted.
“Understand it’s not like a light switch,” Spets said. “Things will lag, economic indicators will lag, and we might not have seen the worst of the economic impacts even today.”
Superintendent Damian LaCroix said the district continues to plan long-term, even the start of next school year.
“If I had to speculate, I’d say we’re not going to have a traditional start,” he said. “We’ll have a non-traditional start around August or September. I hope I’m wrong.”
LaCroix said all the district can do is stay informed on updates and make changes as necessary.
“We’ll keep chopping wood and carrying water,” he said. “When we know more, we’ll do better.”