Community collaboration to return to in-person learning for the Caledonia Area Schools.

Community collaboration to return to in-person learning for the Caledonia Area Schools.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 500!
At 500 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!
Katherine Meyers started this petition to Caledonia Area School District School Board Member Kelley McGraw, Chair and

As concerned parents, taxpayers and community members, we wish to participate in an ongoing discussion about the decision making process for learning models, as well as offer points of consideration that we feel are just as important for decision making as the county reported case numbers. Quality, in-person education is ESSENTIAL to the future of our children, families, community, state, and country.  Virtual learning does not work well for the majority of our students. Virtual learning is falling short for most of our kids and we, as a district and community, are failing them.  The students virtual learning works well for do have virtual options available through homeschool curriculum. For students that do not learn well virtually, an in-person option is necessary for success.  School is a crucial part of our community and we owe it to our kids, and their future, to get them back in an effective learning environment. 

The teachers in the Caledonia Area Public School District have been incredible. Learning new programs, changing their teaching methods, reaching out to parents and students if something seems out of the norm, and countless other examples. Teachers are trying to make the best of an undesirable situation. The teachers, paraprofessionals and staff are in no way responsible for the difficulty that students and families are having with virtual learning.

As previously stated, the signatories would like to present additional information for consideration when determining mode of learning for our students. We would also like, in some form, to be included in discussions with the Board, Administration, and local health experts when the need to re-evaluate our mode of learning arises. Some points of consideration are listed below.

1.      Research and Guidance

a.      The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have come out in favor of having kids in school.  The AAP stated that strict adherence to the 6' rule is not necessary and that "adherence to a specific size of student groups should be discouraged in favor of other risk mitigation strategies” and “reducing classmate interaction/play in elementary school-aged children may not provide enough covid-19 risk reduction to justify potential harms”.  https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/covid-19-planning-considerations-return-to-in-person-education-in-schools/

b.      Also, from the AAP, there isn’t evidence that young childern tramit the disease on a large scale. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879  ("COVID-19 Transmission and Children: The Child Is Not to Blame")

c.      The largest study of COVID-19 in children, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates substantially lower risk and severity of COVID-19 in children https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2020/03/16/peds.2020-0702.full.pdf

d.      From the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine calls to reopen schools “Reopening K-12 Schools During the COVID Pandemic”:  “Weighing the health risks of reopening K-12 schools in fall 2020 against the educational risks of providing no in-person instruction, school districts should prioritize reopening schools full time, especially for grades K-5 and students with special needs.”https://www.nap.edu/read/25858 https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2020/07/schools-should-prioritize-reopening-in-fall-2020-especially-for-grades-k-5-while-weighing-risks-and-benefits 

e.      Deaths of children continue to be extremely low according to data from the CDC, and there is additional data supporting this in the CDC Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal new study from South Korea https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/10/20-1315_article  And for any kids with a co-morbidity or pre-existing condition, they have the virtual option.

2.      Dr Fauci is urging schools to open: https://madison.com/wsj/opinion/editorial/dr-anthony-fauci-sends-a-message-to-wisconsin-schools/article_dc9da817-0631-5e68-9137-fb12a90087e4.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=user-share&fbclid=IwAR3WaKFHQxRP6hGRztXSHlzQ5rtxu78C2EN74AjFIEcB9yCZ8KKudkWWKTI

3.      Neighboring Communities

a.      Several schools in the immediate surrounding area have been able to remain with an in-person learning model. What are the mitigating factors that continue to make this mode of education successful in their districts? Districts in rural Minnesota, rural Wisconsin, and rural Iowa can hold in-person schools, the same should be offered to our Caledonia Area children.

4.      Educational Ramifications

a.      The Economic Policy Institute has collected information on un-intended consequences on academic success for students. Through evaluation of various research studies, a plan is offered for relief, recovery and the rebuilding of the academic successes of students. https://www.epi.org/publication/the-consequences-of-the-covid-19-pandemic-for-education-performance-and-equity-in-the-united-states-what-can-we-learn-from-pre-pandemic-research-to-inform-relief-recovery-and-rebuilding/

b.      Direct student impact can include, but is not limited to, assessments not being done in person, availability for discussions, group projects, physical activity, and monitored “brain breaks”.

5.      Mental Health Implications

a.      The full consequences of disrupted learning on the mental health of students is not yet realized. Many students are offered mental health services and informal supports through the education system. Additionally, mental health symptoms can emerge during the stress of various learning styles, not understanding why changes are occurring, and no guidance on when things will change. Several students have experienced symptoms that can lead to a mental health diagnosis. Including, but not limited to:

                                                    i.     Increased worry

                                                   ii.     Overt and disruptive behaviors

                                                  iii.     Loss of self-worth

                                                  iv.     Feelings of hopelessness

                                                   v.     Appetite changes

                                                  vi.     Sleeping patterns altered

                                                vii.     Personality changes

                                               viii.     Isolation and withdrawing from various social opportunities

b.      Relationships with family members are impacted. Even positive relationships can strain and waiver during stressful times. Having no social outlet for students and/or siblings can cause undue tension in familial relationships.

c.      In-person learning, being around friends and teachers supports the mental health of most students. This learning model also provides much-needed screening and assessments for social and emotional health.

6.      Burden on Families

a.      Availability: All parents (working out of home, working from home, stay at home) are being put in an impossible situation. Even if a family can have a parent in the home while students are participating in distance learning, the parent is not qualified as a substitute teacher. Many parents are trying to teach themselves how to do a Math problem following the Common Core standards, which are different than how they were taught. Additionally, a lot families do not have the option to have a parent available to help with schoolwork. Parents that do have flexibility with work schedules, are at the mercy of an employer that allows changes when the school district changes learning models. If parents are not able to be home, the changing learning models make finding childcare incredibly challenging. This can also cause more community spread whereas parents may need to ask multiple people to watch their children, causing the children to be exposed to more people, and possibly even the most vulnerable group – grandparents.

b.      Supervision: Without an in-person option for school, some parents are forced to find alternative care, or possibly, leave children at home that are not old enough, responsible enough or mature enough to be home alone. Also, older children may have the burden of completing their schoolwork during the day, but also tasked with watching and helping younger siblings with schoolwork as well. Older children are not necessarily staying home and staying safe. Students are spending time at their friends’ homes without masks, not social distancing, and no extra/deep cleaning of the environment to prevent contamination.

c.      Financial: The distance learning model is impossible for working single parents or two-parent working households that have small children. Attendance for work is one issue for parents but affording and obtaining full-time childcare during the school day is an additional cost that was not anticipated. Many local private and religious-based schools are still open to in-person learning. This creates a two-fold conundrum for parents. One, some families have younger children attending the in-person private school, and older children doing distance learning from home through the Caledonia Area Public School. Second, this provides an in-person learning option for public students only if the family is religiously affiliated and/or can afford tuition.

d.      Internet Access: Caledonia Area Public Schools is a largely rural, farming community. This means that high-speed internet is not an option for many of the district’s students. Having to add additional bandwidth to accommodate the distance/virtual learning model is another financial burden on the family.  Likewise, if a family isn’t able to purchase a higher speed, or one is not available in their location, then streaming videos and Zoom meetings are going to lag and/or not work properly.  Add to this, multiple children and multiple devices pulling from an already maxed internet bandwidth, keeping applications and videos up and running is nearly impossible.

e.      Learning Levels: Families with more than one child in distance learning struggle with various Zoom meetings, multiple teachers for several subjects, different learning platforms to learn and navigate, expectations for attendance and processes for submitting work. Parents are tasked to knowing all these practices in order to ensure that their children are completing requirements.

The district staff, parents, community members, and students are all in this together. Additional information is often desired by individuals to fully understand the decision-making process and what factors are being considered. Below are some preliminary questions that could be discussed with the public via the upcoming school board meeting and/or formally, in writing.

1.      “New cases” and “Active cases” presented by the Houston County Department of Health; are these numbers of persons or numbers of test that come back positive?  One person may be tested multiple times during the course of one illness, could this skew the overall numbers?

2.      How many people in our district and/or persons that go into the school buildings have tested positive? The information on the school website has not be updated recently.

3.      Have other hybrid options been evaluated?

a.      Is there a way to have Elementary students attend at least one day per week in-person? Monday – 1st graders attend, Tuesday – 2nd graders, etc. This would provide at least one day for socialization, in-person instruction of new content, 1:1 questions and answers for students, etc.

b.      Kindergarten is in a different wing of the school, with Head Start and preschool. Could these children return to in-person as the students are in the lowest risk category? Kindergarten can be the first experience of school for students and that experience can impact the remaining years of the students’ educational careers.

4.      New Quarantine guidelines from CDC – Are the most recent quarantine guidelines from the CDC being used by the district? https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/t1202-covid-19-telebriefing.html

5.      What is the end goal? When will we know that it’s safe to return to in-person and when will we know that our students don’t have the risk of being pushed into distance learning again?

 

Our entire community is Warrior Strong, and we will prevail. The concern is the cost that our students will pay. We believe that the Caledonia Area School community can mitigate CoVID-19 risk while providing safe, quality, and in-person education for our students. We ask that the School Board and Administration re-consider distance learning until January 17, 2021 and work with parents and other community members to generate more ideas to reduce the contamination risks and get our children back to in-person learning. Thank you.

0 have signed. Let’s get to 500!
At 500 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!