In this screen capture, Ryan Grose, right, and Kevin Brandfass, Co-Presidents of the Marysville Education Association, address the board of education Thursday night at Creekview Intermediate School. The union representatives said that a number of teachers said they would not feel safe with a full return to school at the present time. (Journal-Tribune photo by Chad Williamson)
Teachers might not support such a move
For the first time Marysville officials floated the idea of a full reopening, but that idea may not have the support of staff and likely will not involve five days in class.
During Thursday night’s Marysville Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Diane Allen said that task force groups formed to analyze coronavirus impacts on the local schools have been presented with a tiered return model for consideration.
The proposal would bring K-4 students back the week of Nov. 16, with Creekview Intermediate students following suit in December. High and middle school students would not return until after the first of the year. A previous plan to put the district on a full remote plan from Thanksgiving until the new year was not mentioned and appears like it may be off the table.
Even with such a plan for a full return, Allen said the model would not allow for five days of classroom instruction because of contractual obligations to teachers.
Allen explained that the union contract with Marysville’s teaching staff mandates a certain amount of planning time each week. Changes made to teaching schedules due to safety protocols have impacted that planning time.
Allen said in elementary schools, teachers use time when students are in music, art or physical education as planning time. But in an effort not to expose those teachers to multiple classes, and even buildings, unified arts teachers are now being used differently.
Also, in the high schools, students are double blocking all classes to limit exposure. This means students take courses for two consecutive class periods, but only for half of the school year. This limits the number of times per day students change classes and cuts down on the number of students they are exposed to throughout the day, but also eliminates planning time for teachers.
Allen said the only way to return to meet the commitment to teachers with these safeguards in place is to continue with one day of remote learning. Allen said she would recommend Wednesdays continue to be a planned remote learning day, if such a tiered return is approved by the board.
But the safety of teachers is a key factor in any changes considered.
Ryan Grose, Marysville Education Association Co-President, said the current hybrid model allows teachers to spend time with smaller groups of students while still allowing the staff to feel safe. He said filling classrooms again puts staff at higher risk and will certainly lead to more incidents of exposure and quarantine.
“We’re kind of moving backwards,” Grose said.
Grose said one of the most important components of education is consistency and the hybrid model, while not perfect, allows that. The union rep said a full reopening could threaten that consistency if mass exposures force the district to revert to 100% remote learning.
“Is that inconsistency that comes with being back full time… better than what we are providing right now?” Grose said. “I don’t know that there is a right answer.”
Figures presented from staff surveys later in the meeting reiterated what Grose presented. Allen said 70% of teachers said they would not feel safe with a full return to school. About half of the support staff polled had the same opinion.
The numbers are reversed on parent surveys. Allen said 70% of parents surveyed said they would still send their children to class even if social distancing standards could not be met.
Parental concerns over negatively impacted learning, childcare costs and detrimental social development have been heaped upon the board or the last two months. Thursday’s meeting heard numerous emails from concerned parents and even featured three parents addressing the board in person, after staging in the nearby library of Creekview Elementary.
Only a handful of parents have expressed support for the hybrid model.
But concerns over impacted learning might not be as dire as they appear. Data presented at the meeting compared the reading and math progress of current students to those over the past five years and found the numbers nearly identical.
“By and large there is no difference to this year relative to previous school years,” data coordinator Mark Gallagher said.
Board member Dick Smith asked if the data concluded that the education of students is not being harmed by the hybrid learning model.
“I suppose that is an assumption you could make,” Gallagher said.
Board members decided that the volume of information presented Thursday night needed to be processed before any decision is made on the future plans.
The board called a special meeting for Tuesday to discuss how the district will progress in the coming months.