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  • December 21, 2020

    Dear Parkway Families and Staff,

    The board of education has approved the following plans for our return to in-person learning for all students K-12. This schedule begins on January 19 at the start of the second semester and is outlined through the remainder of the school year.

    Our plan for the second semester

    • All students K-12 who have chosen in-person learning will attend school in-person for the second semester, which begins January 19. Click here to see K-12 In-Person Second Semester Calendar and Daily Schedules. 
    • The second semester calendar includes some distance learning days. For example, there are five distance learning days in the third quarter. When we have a distance learning day, it will be on a Monday. Distance learning days are primarily used for detail cleaning of our schools and to complete contact tracing from the weekend. Click here to learn more about distance learning days.
    • Based on feedback from students and teachers, distance learning days for high school students will be shortened and return to the 10 a.m. start time. High school students in Virtual Campus will also have a shortened schedule on distance learning days.
    • K-8 students in Virtual Campus will continue on their current schedule for the remainder of the school year.  
    • Preschool classes will continue to be open every day students are enrolled.

    How we move forward together

    As we return from the winter break and prepare for students to return, we must all do our part to take care of one another and ensure our activities and behaviors outside of school are also safe and contribute to the success of our students.

    Our data, and regional data from other districts with in-person learning, show that schools are not significantly contributing to community spread of COVID-19 due to the strong safety measures in place at school. Even when schools are at full capacity with less social distancing, the vast majority of positive cases are traced back to transmission outside of school. We must all be mindful of our activities outside of school.

    We know we will continue to face challenges but we are committed to keeping our schools safe and open. To learn more about our health and safety plans, visit our website here.


    Where you can learn more

    We have posted more information here. When we return from winter break and get closer to January 19, we know you may have more questions. Our schools, teachers and district support staff will all be available to support you and your family.

    We are looking forward to a return to school for all students after winter break. In the meantime, I hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful, relaxing and peaceful holiday season.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Keith Marty
    Superintendent
    Parkway Schools

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  • 12/10/2020

    Dear Parkway Families,

    We wanted to update you on plans for the second semester that were discussed at the Parkway Board of Education meeting last night.

    While no decisions were made at the meeting, the board discussed a return to school full-time as soon as possible for families who have chosen in-person learning. You can watch the board meeting discussion here (starts at one hour mark).

    The board requested a plan for in-person learning K-12 for the second semester and scheduled a meeting on Monday, December 21 to review a plan. They decided to meet prior to winter break in order to provide staff and families time to prepare for the second semester, which begins on Tuesday, January 19.

    The board and administration discussed the following key decision-making factors.

    Our students need the most effective and consistent learning opportunities.

    • The blended schedule has proven to be challenging for students, staff and families and provides less direct instruction compared to distance learning and full-time in-person. Our plans must include the most effective learning opportunities for students.

    We care about the success of each child.

    • Parkway data indicate that students overall are doing well academically, and better than expected given the challenges of this year. Many students have adapted and our teachers are working hard to ensure learning and develop new ways to reach and teach our children.
    • Equally important, some of our students are struggling with learning in the pandemic and need access to the setting and approach where they learn best.
    • We remain concerned about the social and mental health of our students and staff and the unique challenges for our children with special needs. 
    • We care about each individual child and are committed to ensuring their success now and moving forward.

    Best practices make schools healthy and safe.

    • We continue to watch the health data closely, and therefore, continue to learn more. The data from our students and staff, and regional data from other districts, show that schools are not significantly contributing to community spread of COVID-19. The majority of positive cases among students and staff have been traced to transmission outside of school. 
    • The level of illness in our community is still very concerning. We are encouraged to see our mitigation strategies and strong safety measures in place at school are limiting the spread of illness. Universal mask-wearing, washing hands often, frequent cleaning, social distancing when possible, and quarantines are making a difference. We will continue to use these best practices to protect our students and staff.
    • We are encouraged by news that vaccines will be available soon and we have a plan to ensure Parkway teachers and staff will have access to a vaccine as soon as possible.

    Students benefit from stability.

    • Teachers, parents and students share a strong desire for stability in schedules, routines and learning environments. The frequent changes this year have posed challenges for student success.
    • Our goal is to provide the most effective learning schedule in the best interest of all students and maintain it for the rest of this school year. We know that an in-person schedule for families who have chosen this option is ideal for meeting this goal.

    Next week, we will share the second semester plan with all staff and parents prior to the board meeting. This will include a timeline, schedules and details for K-12 students who have chosen in-person learning. We know you will have questions so we will continue to stay in touch and provide any support you may need.

    It will take all of us as a community to make this happen. We must all do our part to take care of one another and ensure our activities and behaviors outside of school are safe and contribute to the success of our students.

    We continue to be grateful to our teachers and staff who are providing opportunities for our students to learn and grow despite the many challenges. We are thankful for our students who are working hard and for our parents who have walked alongside us as educators more than ever during this year.

    Sincerely,

    Dr. Marty
    Superintendent
    Parkway Schools

  • November 17, 2020

    Dear Parkway Parents, Staff and Students,

    We continue to be impacted by COVID-19 in our communities and schools. It’s fair to say we are all fatigued by this pandemic and its effects on our lives. While there are things outside our control, we still recognize the impacts our decisions have on our children and families and take this responsibility seriously.

    When we decided to return to in-person learning in early October, our community was healthier. As you know, the transmission of illness is significantly higher now and Parkway zip codes are currently at the highest level of community spread we have seen since the pandemic began.

    The Board of Education will consider a recommendation for the remainder of the semester at its meeting tomorrow, Wednesday, November 18. You can watch the meeting online starting at 7 pm here. For more information about the meeting and public comment, click here.

    Here are some important things to know:

    • Illness and quarantines: We are seeing higher rates of illness and nearly 700 quarantines among students and staff, with more than twice as many active positive cases in our middle and high schools as compared to our elementary schools. See the data by school on our Community Health Dashboard here.

    • Illness by age: Parkway’s experience is consistent with the regional data. Children ages 10-19 represent the highest test positivity rate among all age groups in the region, while children ages 0-9 represent the lowest among all age groups. To see more data by age group, click here.

    • Staffing: While we have not reached critical staffing levels in most of our schools yet, we have had to sacrifice services in some areas to ensure classrooms have a teacher. We have experienced significant staff absences, and similarly, seen many public and private schools in our region recently closed due to a shortage of teachers and staff absent for illness or quarantine.

    • Absenteeism and quality of learning: Our current blended learning schedule provides some in-person learning for students and maximizes the opportunity for social distancing. This is especially beneficial for our youngest students, many of whom are not equipped to learn online without adult guidance. However, due to the higher volume of illness, quarantines and challenges of the blended schedule, we are seeing a significant increase in absenteeism particularly in our high schools. Between 20-25 percent of students who chose in-person learning are not coming to school. While some of these absences are due to quarantine, many are due to concerns about COVID-19. Considering that about 30 percent of students are already attending Virtual Campus, only about half of our high school students are attending school in person.

    The recommendation for the remainder of the first semester, which ends January 15, includes:

    • Elementary students in grades K-5 continue the blended schedule through the end of the semester. To limit the spread of illness and quarantines around holiday breaks, we are planning distance learning days for elementary students before and after holiday breaks. Distance learning days would include the three days after Thanksgiving (November 30-December 2); and before and after winter break (December 21-22 and January 5-6). If at any time we reach critical illness or staffing levels, we may need to close an elementary school or schools for a period of time until the situation improves. 

    • Middle and high school students in grades 6-12 return to distance learning full-time starting November 30 through the remainder of the first semester. Students would continue to learn online with their current teachers five days a week using their current school schedule. 
    • Virtual Campus students continue with their current daily schedule for the remainder of the first semester.
    • Parkway Early Childhood students continue with their current schedule. Early Childhood will have the same distance learning days as elementary schools before and after holiday breaks as outlined above.

    This recommendation, if approved, would:

    • Allow us to proactively address staffing. We can move support staff and substitute teachers from our middle and high schools to provide support to students in our 18 elementary schools to help keep them open for in-person learning. For example, we could temporarily assign a middle or high school bus driver, nurse or custodian to support an elementary staff member who is ill or quarantined.

    • Prioritize our staffing resources to our youngest learners who are less equipped to manage virtual learning. Our middle and high school students have demonstrated higher risk for illness, spread of illness and quarantines that are disrupting their learning. While distance learning is not ideal, we know most of our older students are more equipped to learn online until the health of our community improves.

    If this recommendation is approved by the board, we understand it will be disappointing to some families and staff. We share that disappointment, but feel this plan is in the best interest of our students and staff. We will continue to work to provide a full time in-person option for all students as soon as possible.

    As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to thank you and your children for your understanding and continued dedication to learning. I am especially proud of all our teachers, principals and staff. If you would like to send your teachers a quick note of gratitude, here is a digital thank you card.

    Please remind your children that we are proud of them. We have asked a lot of all of you as we work through this difficult time, and there is hope ahead. We will update you after the board meeting with our plan moving forward.

    Sincerely,
    Dr. Marty
    Superintendent