The Manhattan-Ogden school board and administrators are seeking input on how to deliver the best possible education while keeping students and faculty safe from COVID-19.
Gary Sechrist, leadership services field specialist with the Kansas Association of School Boards, facilitated a work session Wednesday to help USD 383 improve the problems associated with the hybrid learning model — two days a week of in-person classes and three days of online classes.
Board members agreed that the focus for administrators going forward is finding ways to alleviate stress for everyone involved.
Superintendent Marvin Wade said to begin addressing the stress, it is important the district understands that everyone is looking at the issues from different perspectives. During the work session, Sechrist guided the board members in exercises that helped them see the many ways patrons and teachers are viewing the problems.
“We talked about stress several times tonight,” Wade said. “(It helps to) acknowledge that we’re all experiencing the stress. We’re all trying to do the best thing we can and … recognizing that we’re all trying to get the same thing done, which is have people be safe, the staff feel supported, have students learning and parents feel like they’re being heard — all of those things came up several times tonight.”
Jurdene Coleman, school board vice president, said she felt the work session helped everyone get on the same page and gain direction.
“We wanted to give the administration an idea of where our priorities lie,” she said. “I think … we left our last meeting just feeling like we were uncertain about what our priorities were as a whole group. I think tonight we were able to really hone in on what are the things that we want the administration to work towards.”
Throughout the evening, board members presented several ideas and thoughts, but it all boiled down to the anxiety hybrid learning is causing for everyone involved. The teachers are having to teach in the classroom and remotely; the parents are trying to help their children learn; the students are adjusting to two days in class and three days at home in front of a computer. At their meeting on Sept. 16, the board voted 6-1 to remain in hybrid through at least Oct. 22.
“We recognize that the way we’re doing hybrid right now is stressing everybody out to the max,” Coleman said. “Our goal is to find ways to decrease that stress that aren’t going to require a sharp turn in any direction but to tweak things slowly and steadily, so that teachers can keep up and maintain those changes.”
Moving forward, Wade said the first step for him is to communicate with parents and staff about the work session. He will seek input about what is working and what isn’t, as well as share ideas and send out a survey.
One idea bantered about is changing the hybrid schedule so instead of Group A attending class on Monday and Tuesday, that group would go Monday and Thursday and Group B would go on Tuesday and Friday.
Wade wants to gauge what the comfort level is with parents sending their children back to the classroom if the COVID-19 positivity rate increases.
He also wants to hear more from the teachers and staff. He knows the workload, and one teacher trying to instruct online and in the classroom simultaneously is causing much of the stress they feel.
“If we had the staff to do the remote and to do the small classes — if we had the space and the staff to do that, then we could pull this off,” he said. “If we had one teacher with those 15 students in the classroom and another teacher with the other 15 students that are remote, that would take care of it, but we don’t have that.”
He is also aware that the decision officials come to as a district has to have the flexibility for each school to make it work.