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SCS details expectations of students, faculty, parents to school board

Expectations of teachers, students and staff was laid out in more detail at Tuesday’s meeting of the Stanly County Board of Education.

Dr. Amy Blake-Lewis, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, expanded upon a written set of expectations to the board and answered questions.

A draft of the document had been presented to the board at the July 21 meeting but a final document was expected to be ready by Aug. 6. Principals have been able to see the document and had input in it since the first week of July.

The document covers how teachers will grade student’s efforts including testing and exams, how attendance will be tracked and general classroom setups, including remote learning. The packet also contains forms for parents and the expectations for students and their families.

“These expectations are really nothing mind boggling. They are just some basic expectations that exist even in a face-to-face classroom with a few minor tweaks to make them more applicable to a remote setting,” Blake-Lewis said.

Board member Anthony Graves expressed concerns he had learned in conversations with teachers saying they had not received all available information. Board member Glenda Gibson agreed with Graves. She felt like “our teachers are feeling very anxious” and asked for an example of teacher expectations.

Blake-Lewis said teachers will be asked to share their schedules with their principals on the Google Calendar platform, including Google Meet for virtual meetings, as well as use the Canvas learning platform for virtual learning.

Gibson asked if all the teachers have been trained on Canvas, to which interim superintendent Vicki Calvert said training had been available for teachers the first of July to complete by Aug. 1. If the training had not been completed, Calvert added, teachers could complete it when they came back to school next week.

“Most of our middle and high school teachers were using Canvas anyway so, at least for our high school teachers, that should not be anything new for them,” Calvert said.

Regarding elementary school teachers, Blake-Lewis and Director of Elementary Education Lynn Plummer said they had not heard anything from them having difficulty.

Face-to Face vs. Online

Certain teachers, especially at the elementary levels, are to be designated as face-to-face teachers while others will strictly be working with students online, according to Blake-Lewis.

Board member Patty Crump asked if this meant elementary students would have two sets of teachers, to which Blake-Lewis said yes.

Things will be different at the high school level, Blake-Lewis said, due to the fact that only one-third of the students will be at school in the three-week rotation and the diversity of courses being taught. Since Canvas will be used as a mode of delivery for lessons, Blake-Lewis said “there was really not a need to designate any teachers at the high school level to be solely remote teachers.”

However, should any high school teachers have a documented medical condition and choose to work remotely, SCS will work with that teacher, Blake-Lewis added.

The middle schools, however, are having to be a hybrid between having two sets of teachers or one due to areas of certification as well as the structure of middle school.

Middle schools will have a certain number of fully remote teachers depending upon their size, Blake-Lewis said, using South Stanly Middle as an example. A teacher could teach three blocks face-to-face then teach a fourth block based upon their certification.

Gibson asked if middle school teachers instructing face-to-face can be seen remotely at the same time. Blake-Lewis said it is an option with Google Meet, but bandwidth across the county is a concern.

Planning Time

All teachers at the middle and high school levels will have time from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. to connect with students learning remotely through Google Meet.

Gibson said she was concerned about SCS requiring so much work from middle school teachers in the hybrid plan.

Blake-Lewis said the two-hour time in the afternoon is to meet with students, but is also a flexible time for planning.

“I feel that our teachers are definitely going to be doing double duty, triple duty work from what they have in the past,” Gibson said.

Knowing the amount of time that goes into planning — noting her experience teaching middle school language arts and social studies, , Blake-Lewis said since middle schools will be at half capacity, it will allow for more flexibility in terms of how a teacher can use time during a block of instruction.

“It is going to be a different type of year and I don’t know any other way around it,” Blake-Lewis said.

Another way teachers may be able to get small breaks during the day will be through the use of exploratory classes (art, music, P.E., etc.), which Blake-Lewis said are already transitioning at the middle-school level to be fully remote.

“Students are going to have to be held accountable, so it’s not just our teachers…out students are going to have to step up their game and be held accountable,” Gibson said.

Graves asked the opinion of Blake-Lewis of how much more effort teachers are being asked to do as opposed to beyond their normal efforts of time-and-a-half with the remote situation.

Since the blocks are 60 minutes instead of 75 there is less preparation, along with the half capacity, Blake-Lewis said she believes it is a “comparable expectation.”

Teaching Assistants

Jeff Chance, acting as chairman since Melvin Poole and Ryan McIntyre not in attendance but participating via phone, asked about the percentage of time instruction will be given by certified teachers as opposed to teacher assistants.

Blake-Lewis said teaching assistants do not give instruction but assist in a workshop model at the elementary level where a teacher provides a mini-lesson and the teacher assistant monitors students independently practicing the skill. She added teacher assistants are more like facilitators.

There are a limited number of teacher assistants, Blake-Lewis said, in middle and high school, with most assigned to Exceptional Children. She said they would be unable to help in other areas.

Calvert also mentioned exceptional children will be able to attend face-to-face school in self-contained classrooms every day.

Accessibility

In terms of bandwidth, another question asked by Chance, Blake-Lewis referred to the parent-family cooperative learning agreement, a document she said “outlines what the cooperation between parents and the school needs to be to make this successful.”

Part of the agreement includes a question for families about if a household has adequate internet access or if it can provide an alternate location. Parents can also contact a teacher to request printed copies of materials. The form will be part of the normal back-to-school packet for parents.

“If you’re choosing remote (learning), you are assuming some responsibility there for your child’s learning,” Blake-Lewis said.

Crump asked about allowing places such as public libraries, unused classrooms or other places where students could get the access needed for remote learning.

Blake-Lewis said those students who have Chromebooks given to them by SCS can download documents and lesson plans at school Friday for the coming week and then be able to access them online. When students returned to school in person, completed work could be uploaded on the school’s WiFi.

She said some places around town offer free WiFI access, such as McDonald’s or Lowe’s or public libraries. Blake-Lewis said SCS has a partnership with the Stanly County Family YMCA, which has been reaching out to churches on the school’s behalf to use their facilities.

Google Meet, she added, also has an option for students to be able to call in to a meeting and participate through a phone line.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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