Monroe-Woodbury School District officials are required to file their 2020-21 school reopening plans to the New York State Department of Education (SED) by the end of the day on Friday, July 31, but hinted to district residents earlier this week what those plans may look like.
Superintendent Elsie Rodriguez wrote in a July 27 email to parents that Monroe-Woodbury was “considering a variety of hybrid models that would allow for students to experience both remote and in-school learning on a set schedule with other family members. The K-12 hybrid models feature reduced class sizes, alternate student schedules, six feet social distancing and transportation options.
“School leaders have been considering many scenarios and are working hard to formulate a plan that will best serve our community and keep M-W students and staff safe,” Rodriguez added in her email parents. “One fact has become clear as the plan has evolved. We do not foresee a scenario where M-W would be able to welcome all 7,000 students back to our school buildings simultaneously in September. This decision has been based on student enrollment, current federal and state health guidelines and social distancing mandates.”
The July 31 deadline was set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month, when he required the more than 700 school districts in New York State to submit reopening plans for his administration’s review.
Hybrid return-to-school model
Cuomo later announced the metrics he will use to determine how or when schools statewide will open.
On July 13, he said schools will open if a region is in Phase IV and the daily infection rate remains below 5 percent, or lower, using a 14-day average since New York “unPause” was lifted. Schools will stay closed if the regional infection rate is greater than 9 percent using a seven-day average after Aug. 1.
The hybrid return-to-school model seems to be most favored by other Orange County school districts, and many have already begun to let their communities know further details prior to the July 31 filing date.
Their thinking might be to allow people time to become accustomed to some of their plans prior to July 31, knowing there’s all kinds of ideas about what schools should be doing.
Already, Warwick Valley announced plans to reopen Pine Island Elementary as a satellite school as part of its hybrid instructional model. Minisink Valley told its community it currently plans to have all K-1 students report into school every day.
Access to technology
Rodriguez did tell parents they may choose fully remote learning for their children to start if they prefer to keep them at home, but details were not part of that.
Any partial or fully remote model would require students to have access to technology. Monroe-Woodbury recently completed Chromebook distribution to all Grade 2-12 students; with K-1 student receiving iPads.
“Based on the instructional needs and ease of use, we are providing iPads to our youngest learners (K-1 students) and Chromebooks for the 2-12 grade students,” said Carole Spendley, the district’s communications specialist. “As of July 27, 2020 Monroe-Woodbury has distributed 4,390 devices.
“We already had about 3,000 student assigned Chromebooks and 450 student assigned iPads that we were using in the district before COVID,” Spendley added. “We have recently purchased an additional 3,000 Chromebooks and 300 iPads (total cost of $680,700) so we can provide a device to every student in the district.”
That eliminates the issue Monroe-Woodbury and other districts experienced in the spring with students not having access to home technology or multiple students in a home without enough technology for all.
Some districts are scrambling to acquire additional Chromebooks, and there’s now a nationwide shortage of this equipment and Intel processors.
There’s also connectivity challenges. Some families don’t have home Internet access, or their Internet connections are spotty at best.
Synchronous and asynchronous learning
But both are needed to allow the all-remote or hybrid models to work for either synchronous or asynchronous learning to take place.
Synchronous learning is online or distance education that happens in real time, such as when an instructor is teaching material to students in remote locations like home.
Asynchronous learning occurs online without real-time interaction, such as accessing instructional materials through Google classroom and without live instructional interaction. Many hybrid learning models can include a blend of asynchronous and synchronous learning.
A consistent complaint of parents during the past three-month school closure was there was no synchronous instruction and no daily school routine or schedules for their children.
Monroe-Woodbury surveyed parents about their perspective of the past three-month closure, but those results have yet to be shared with the community.