Nevada City School District board OK’s hybrid instructional model, at superintendent’s discretion
The Nevada City School District Board of Trustees has approved a hybrid instructional model for the upcoming school year, though discretion was given to district superintendent Monica Daugherty to change course should it become necessary.
In a special Monday board meeting, Daugherty presented plans for an improved distance learning experience as well as plans for the hybrid model, which would separate students into cohorts for in-person instruction. The proposal passed 3 to 2.
The school year begins Aug. 17.
Her presentation began with some common concerns voiced by parents in the district, including fears that a modified learning process would cause some younger students to fall behind permanently, fear of COVID-19 transmission risk, and frustration that students would be asked to wear masks.
In a survey of the district’s families which garnered 511 responses, 29.9% plan to choose full distance learning for their child. 49.1% responded that they would not, while 20.9% were undecided.
Out of 509 responses, 53.9% said they would prefer a hybrid, partially in-person instructional model. 26.5% said they would not, while 19.8% were undecided.
“The number one (priority) is the safety and the mental health of students, staff, and families,” said Daugherty. “That is what we always look at, what is best for all those groups of people.”
Should the district need to return to a full distance learning model at some point, schools would follow statewide standards including a requirement of daily “live” interaction, recorded attendance and engagement, and measures to make sure families have access to internet connectivity. They would also be required to serve students considered to be in need, meaning that as long as the county is permitted to hold in-person instruction, even schools in full distance learning would be able to bring onto campus students with special needs, learning loss, or who are without internet service.
Daugherty said that any distance learning would involve a unified approach to online platforms in order to simplify the process for students and teachers. The chosen platforms included Google Classroom as a learning management system, ScreenCastify for recording and storing lessons, and Google Meets for video conferencing.
Alternately, the proposed hybrid model would begin with two weeks of minimum days.
“This would allow students to be here minimally, so it’s a nice and slow rollout for them, their families, and staff. Every single day, we would have meetings afterward connecting as staff on what worked, what didn’t, and what other safety precautions we need to pull in,” said Daugherty.
According to parent surveys, there would likely be enough families opting for full distance learning to employ a distance learning teacher for most grades regardless of the district’s choice on the whole.
Daugherty said that, in addition to following statewide guidance to prevent transmission of COVID-19, the district would be following a site-specific plan of intensified cleaning, designated routes for movement within the schools for students and staff, and the use of outdoor spaces for breaks and lunches. She said a detailed version of this plan will be provided during the next board meeting, set for Aug. 11.
“We are able to meet the safety requirements required by the Nevada County Health Department,” said Daugherty.
Board president Wendy Sakala expressed her support for a flexible approach to the upcoming school year, stating that everyone in the district has individual needs, and that no one plan would suit them all.
“We need to support those children that cannot thrive in a distance learning environment, we need to support the parents who need those school hours to go to work and provide for their families or perform an essential service, and we need to give teachers the option to provide distance learning when their circumstances call for that,” said Sakala.
Sakala and board members Seth Leishman and Ty Conway voted in favor of beginning the 2020-21 school year with the proposed hybrid option, with authority given to the superintendent’s leadership team to change this plan if necessary. Board members Jennifer Singer and Jim Sperlazza opposed.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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