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Parkway Board of Education voted to approve a plan for the second quarter and a return to in-person learning

9/30/2020 -- The below email was sent to parents and staff from Superintendent Dr. Keith Marty.

 

Dear Parkway Parents and Staff,

Last night, the Parkway Board of Education voted to approve a plan for the second quarter and a return to in-person learning. We have a lot of information to share and we will continue to stay in touch as we prepare for a return to school.

As we move forward together, our decisions and our hearts remain focused on the academic, physical, social and emotional wellbeing of our students and the staff who care for our children each day. We know these decisions significantly impact each family, so we are working harder than ever before on behalf of our students and staff to make the right decisions during this challenging time.

Our plan beginning in second quarter

  • In-Person K-8: Students will begin to return on a part-time schedule starting October 22 for grades K-5 and on October 27 for grades 6-8. This is a short transition period which we have outlined here. Provided that the key health metrics continue to support this decision, K-8 students would return five days a week starting November 9.  
  • Virtual Campus K-8: Families who have chosen Virtual Campus in grades K-5 will begin learning online with their second quarter teacher on October 22 and students in grades 6-8 will begin on October 27.
  • All High School 9-12: Our high school students will continue Distance Learning for the remainder of the first semester. The second quarter schedule will begin on October 27.
  • Preschool: Classes will resume on October 27 with reduced class sizes. An afternoon section will be available online for families who prefer a virtual option.

What factors were used to make this decision?

We have been closely monitoring the key health data in our community and evaluating the distance learning experiences of our students. You can see the health data we are using to inform our decisions on our Community Health Dashboard here.

  • The majority of school districts in our region have similar plans based on current health data for St. Louis County. Our plans are also consistent with recommendations from the St. Louis County Health Department. 
  • For elementary and middle school-age children, the key health metrics continue to trend positively. We also know distance learning has been more challenging for our younger students. 

Why was the decision made for high school students to continue distance learning for the second quarter?

  • We are still concerned about the number of positive cases among high school age students. St. Louis County youth ages 15-19 are trending in the red threshold for average new cases, indicating there is accelerated community spread in this age group. Since March of 2020, 85 percent of all the positive cases among all children in the Parkway community are ages 15-19. The positivity rate among ages 15-19 is currently five to eight times higher than younger children. You can see more details on the rates by age group here.
  • While we want our high school students back in school, we have received positive feedback overall about the Distance Learning experience for high school students. Parents, students and teachers have shared students are generally able to manage learning from home with quality instruction from teachers and many are enjoying the benefits of learning online, including more sleep and flexibility of schedules.
  • We know that some students are struggling. We are developing plans that will provide opportunities for in-person intervention and support at school for identified students so we can ensure their unique needs are met. We will share details on these plans in the coming weeks.
  • High school class periods will be expanded to 70 minutes for the second quarter. This extra time will allow teachers to provide increased support targeted to students in need of additional help. Learning support time on Wednesdays will still be available and teachers will continue to hold office hours at the end of each day.
  • There are unique issues in a high school building that remain a concern. Our high schools would have between 1,000 -1,400 students on average attending school in one indoor space, with students frequently moving between classes and mixing groups. This reality, when combined with the higher transmission rates among older teens, does not allow for adequate safety precautions for our high school students at this time.
  • While we have decided to continue with Distance Learning right now, please know our goal is to get our high school students back in school for the third quarter if possible.

Can my family adjust our learning schedule choice?

Yes, we recognize some families may want to adjust their choice for in-person or virtual learning based on this announcement. Families in grades K-8 will receive a link to a survey soon that will allow you to change your learning choice if needed. We will begin assigning teachers and schedules this week, so if the return to school plan changes your selection, please complete this survey by noon tomorrow, Thursday, October 1. As we have shared, please know any time we move a student between in-person and virtual learning, it can change teachers, class sizes and schedules for all students, so we need to limit changes moving forward for the remainder of the school year.

What health precautions should I expect at school?

It’s important to know school will look different this year with new health and safety procedures for students and staff.

  • All students and staff will complete a daily health screening before coming to school. If your child has any symptoms, including known exposure to COVID-19, flu or cold symptoms, you should stay home and call your school. Medical evaluation will be required if students are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-like illnesses.
  • Students and staff will wear masks all day at school. We will practice social distancing, stay in small groups and avoid mixing groups whenever possible. Furniture, seating and classrooms will be rearranged to allow for maximum physical distancing.
  • It’s important to know when we return to school five days a week with all students attending every day, there will be times when social distancing is not feasible throughout the entire school day.
  • Learn more about health and safety precautions at school.

Where can I learn more about second quarter plans?

We know you have additional questions, which we have answered here. If you have any questions specific to your child, you can also reach out to your school. 

Thank you for your ongoing support, grace and patience as we navigate this school year together. We have missed having our students in school more than you may know, so we are excited and looking forward to a safe and successful return to school while continuing to support our virtual learners at home!

Dr. Marty
Superintendent
Parkway Schools