BG Schools learning from home

Kennedi Hendricks, a junior at Bowling Green High School, works from a laptop on her kitchen table from home. Along with high school classes, Henricks takes two college classes at Bowling Green State University as well. "I feel that the connection that people have in person helps somebody learn better, especially for those that can't do this whole online thing." Hendricks said when asked about the challenges from learning at home.

Bowling Green City Schools students will not be returning to the classroom this month.

The school district’s board of education made its decision Thursday with a 3-2 vote to keep teaching online.

A schedule for when the teaching model will be reevaluated was not finalized.

Board members Ginny Stewart, Norm Geer and Jill Carr voted in favor of staying online with the understanding that improvements are necessary to address the social and emotional needs of students.

“We have the ability to come up with some form of in-person help for those who need it,” Geer said.

Board members Bill Clifford and Tracy Hovest voted against the motion.

Hovest said she was swayed by the emotional, social and academic needs of students.

“A lot of emails that we received stressed the need for real-life skills students can’t get behind a computer,” she said. “We can’t keep living in this what if … what if COVID never goes away. Are we just going to keep doing remote?”

Stewart, who is board president, said that a lot of teachers have said they are finally getting in a groove with online learning.

“I would prefer to wait until sometime in January,” she said.

“Those parents that may not be in favor of either one of our decision … be patient and help us work through this,” Stewart said. “That continuity is so important to a child.”

Students have been attending online lessons since Sept. 8 and have been out of the classroom since the governor closed schools March 16.

If the vote had gone the other way, classes would have started on the hybrid model on Oct. 27.

The board had received an update Tuesday on the number of coronavirus cases in the city.

“I respect the numbers,” Clifford said the data, “and it feels like it’s not a perfect time.”

However, he added that the social and emotional piece was critical to his vote to return students to the classrooms.

“I for one feel if we don’t do it now, it won’t happen in January,” Clifford said.

The need to address at-risk students took up much of Thursday’s 45-minute meeting, which was held virtually.

“We should find a way to do this wherever the at-risk student is,” Clifford said.

Carr urged administrators to be creative in working with counselors and parents to meet those social and emotional needs and change their learning environment if necessary.

Opening the school to only those students at risk is an option as long as they maintain social distancing, Stewart said.

“What remains absolutely first for me is their health and safety,” she said. “I’m concerned with how disruptive this will be if we have a COVID or flu outbreak.”

The administrative team will meet Friday morning and will have to think outside the box in order to address the social and emotional needs of students, said Superintendent Francis Scruci.

“This is by no means perfect,” he said. “We know we have to make improvements. We’re committed to doing everything we can to meet the needs of students and parents.”

The online decision was made in July based on facts and information, Stewart said. She said if things go well, second semester can be started back in the classroom.

“It’s not forever,” Stewart said.

The first semester ends Feb. 5.

Hovest said that if the district follows the policies and guidelines established by the county board of health, they can mitigate the spread of the virus.

“You’re not allowing people a choice. This online learning is not working,” she said. “There is always going to be a what if.

“We are supposed to be educating our children.”

If the district had gone to the hybrid model, students would go three days without seeing a teacher, Stewart said.

Under the hybrid model, students would have been in the building for two full days — either Tuesdays and Wednesdays or Thursdays and Fridays — but would receive less face time with their teacher than they do now with learning online, said Angela Schaal, director of teaching and learning, during Tuesday’s special board meeting.

She said K-2 students now get three one-hour blocks daily for instruction under the current system, for 12 hours a week; grades 3-5 get four one-hour blocks for 16 hours per week.

At the high school, students now get 55-minute periods twice per week per class. The hybrid model will give teachers two 50-minute periods face to face, said Dan Black, assistant principal.

Schaal agreed that students would have less availability with a live teacher in the hybrid model. And there is no opportunity for live instruction for the three days students are not in a building, she said.

The school district, even being online, is not safe from the coronavirus, Scruci said.

A sports program, grades 9-12, is being quarantined as are three coaches/teachers after one student tested positive.