The first day of school in Steelville has been postponed to Tuesday, September 8. School board members met briefly on the morning of Thursday, August 6, and voted to approve the recommendation from Superintendent Mike Whittaker to push the date back.
Whittaker told the board there was “a little fear we are not as prepared as we need to be” for virtual learning. Parents have been asked to respond to a short online survey to choose whether their student(s) will attend classes in person or will enroll in the district’s online academy. Whittaker reported that there have been parents of students in every grade level who have selected the virtual option. “The bottom line is we feel we need more training,” he said.
In order to do that, Whittaker proposed beginning teacher workdays on August 24 and waiting to begin school with students on September 8 in order to give more time for training related to technology. He noted there would be a focus on ensuring teachers were ready to utilize the Chromebooks and tablets purchased for each student, to prepare for the students who are planning to attend school virtually, and to prepare for the possibility of schools being mandated to move entirely to virtual learning models at some point in the future.
“We have to work with every kid in this situation,” Whittaker said.
Board member Tana Booker noted she suspects older students think, if they are enrolled in the online academy, they will be able to do their classwork whenever. However, the virtual option will still require students to log in for class at the time the teacher is presenting it.
Whittaker noted the change in the start date for school would mean the calendar for the year would have to be adjusted as well and he planned to have a proposal for those changes at the regular August board meeting.
Following Thursday’s meeting, Whittaker informed parents of the change immediately utilizing the district’s messaging system to send texts, a recorded call, and emails out to patrons. The following notification was sent via email and posted to social media:
Steelville School District Stakeholders:
The Steelville Board of Education met in a special session this morning to consider my request to postpone the start of school for 10 days. Our start date has been moved from August 27, 2020 to September 8, 2020.
The reason for my request was to allow our staff to be properly prepared for the beginning of the school year and for the possibility of the need to move to all virtual learning as the year progresses. Please understand, our intent is to have in-person school as an option throughout the school year. However, we have to be prepared to move to the virtual option if we are mandated to do so.
Moving the start date back will provide our staff with much needed technology training. Teachers at all buildings and grade levels will receive intensive training in the use of technology in the classroom and in the virtual setting. It is our desire to provide our students with the best learning experiences possible, regardless of the learning platform.
This extension will also allow for additional progress to be made on our construction projects. A new calendar for the 2020-2021 school year will be proposed at the August school board meeting.
Students attending RTI/RTC will start on an earlier date. Those students will be contacted by a high school staff member.