Green Bay school board looks at return
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The consistently high number of COVID-19 cases in the community means a return to in-person learning for Green Bay students is still up in the air.
The school board, however, is beginning to plan for what a return could look like when the time comes to make the transition.
Superintendent Steve Murley shared details of the administration’s proposed plan on a blended/hybrid model with the board at its meeting Monday, Nov. 23.
“This process began back in July,” Murley said. “Keep in mind, this is going to be an evolutionary process. This isn’t a process that has an answer. What we have is the ability to make the best choice that we can, and we will make the best recommendations to you (the board) that we can with the information that we have available to us at the time. It’s likely, before we get to the end of the school year, that we will have new proposals for you to consider as we learn more.”
The return plan focuses on a hybrid model that would bring all students 4K-6 and freshmen back four days a week (Mondays, Tuesday, Thursdays and Fridays), with Wednesdays remaining virtual.
The return model has students in 7-8 and 10-12 grades remaining in a virtual learning platform until COVID-19 cases drop more.
This differs from a previous discussion about a cohort model which would have students at all grade levels back on different days of the week.
Murley said administration moved away from that idea because it is difficult to provide a consistent learning process for all students.
Though they understand Murley’s rationale, some board members were concerned the return plan excludes too many grade levels.
“I’m concerned about the word ‘prioritize,’” said Rhonda Sitnikau, board member. “We should be prepared for families that say ‘Well, I gotta go.’ And when I say those parents might go, I mean they will literally leave (the district).”
Others say they recognize the plan isn’t perfect, but has to start somewhere.
“We have to remember that we can plan all we want, but we can only plan so far until we can gather more information,” said Kristina Shelton, board vice president. “It is going to require continued sacrifice and flexibility for every single person. It is not going to be ideal because this situation is not ideal. It’s a disaster.”
The board will vote on the proposed plan at its Dec. 14 meeting.
Currently based on the district’s gating criteria, a transition to blended learning would happen when COVID-19 cases are between 20 and 100 cases per 100,000 for two consecutive weeks.
The board is set to revisit that criteria next month.
This discussion came on the heels of a recommendation from administration for alternative grading options for secondary students.
Judy Wiegand, executive director of secondary schools, said the first six-week grading period shows many students are not performing well with failure numbers in some places nearly double what they were last year at this point.
To help address these hurdles, Wiegand said staff is proposing additional grading options to “better support the needs of our students during this unprecedented school year.”
The district’s traditional grading approach will still be in place, however, students would have other grading options, if needed, including:
• No grade/limited enrollment – students who attend less than 80-percent of the scheduled school days in a grading period can request a no grade/limited enrollment. The student would be required to retake the course for a grade and credit
• Incomplete – students who have completed progress in the course, but the overall percentage is not a passing grade, can be given an incomplete. Students would have until August 2021 (end of summer school) to complete assigned work and receive a letter grade.
• Pass – for students who complete a sufficient amount of work, but the letter grade would be anything lower than an A, can opt for a pass grade.
These options can be requested by teachers, parents or students.
This would include all secondary grade levels – high school and middle school students.
To be eligible for either an incomplete or a pass grade, students must continue to participate and engage in the class until the end of the grading period.
“It’s not a perfect system by any means,” Wiegand said. “But it recognizes that some kids may need to take a pause.”
Similar options were available to students last spring.
“What I like about this is it still requires students to do the work to get the credit,” Shelton said. “It just doesn’t just move kids on, they still have to do the work. What it does is gives kids and families an off-ramp if things aren’t working well. There are many reasons why students may be experiencing something like this. What this does is, knowing that COVID isn’t going to last forever, that when they are in a better space, they can get themselves back into a better place with their grades, coursework and credits.”
The board will vote on the additional grading options Dec. 14.
Winter sports season
The board also discussed the upcoming winter sports season – which includes basketball, dance/cheer, hockey, swimming and wrestling.
Administration recommended participation in athletics and other co-curricular activities coincide with blended learning.
Tim Flood, administrator for district co-curricular programming, said this means if the district has not moved to a blended learning model by Jan. 4, the district would not have a winter sports season.
“The district does not have the option to move the winter sports season to later in the year like we were able to do with fall sports,” Flood said.
The board will also take up this vote at its meeting next month.