Alder stays fully remote for learning, allows sports to continue

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(Posted Dec. 7, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Messenger

At a special meeting on Dec. 4, the Jonathan Alder school board voted unanimously to stay in remote learning mode for all students but allow sports and extracurriculars to continue, following state and local safety protocols, through Jan. 1. Whether this setup remains in place after the start of the new year will depend on the state of the pandemic at that time.

“For lack of a better analogy, it’s been a rollercoaster of emotions over the last three weeks,” said Jonathan Alder Local Schools Superintendent Gary Chapman.

The timeline of those three weeks was as follows:

  • Nov. 12–Madison County Public Health orders all schools to move to hybrid learning models for the period between Thanksgiving break and New Year’s Day.
  • Nov. 23–The health board changes that order, requiring all schools to go to 100 percent remote learning and halt sports and extracurriculars for the Nov. 30-Jan. 1 period.
  • Dec. 2–The health board rescinds those orders, making them advisories instead, effectively giving schools the flexibility to choose between their full remote and hybrid learning models and choose whether they allow sports and extracurriculars to continue.
  • Dec. 3–Madison County is placed on the “watch list” for Level 4/purple (severe exposure and spread of the virus) on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System.

Chapman said he received a lot of feedback from school administrators, teachers, parents and students about which direction the district should go.

“One of the things we have heard is, ‘We want consistency,’” he said.

In a statement posted to the district’s website following the board meeting, he further stated, “The decision to stay 100 percent remote is based on the need to provide safety and consistency for our students, families and teachers… Making another sudden change in our educational pathway in such a short period of time creates additional anxiety and stress for all involved. We believe it is best to slow down the decision-making process so that we can continue to make well-informed plans for our students and schools moving forward.”

During the special meeting, Cheryl Manbeck, a music teacher and president of the Jonathan Alder Education Association (teachers’ union), shared the results of a survey presented to association members. Eighty-eight percent of members took part in the survey.

They were asked what educational pathway would be best for staff based on current data. According to Manbeck, 67 percent said fully remote would be best, 24 percent preferred hybrid, and 9 percent preferred fully in-person.

They also were asked what educational pathway would be best for students based on the current data. According to Manbeck, 59 percent said fully remote, 31 percent said hybrid, and 9 percent said fully in-person.

She noted that, when broken down by building and even by grade level within buildings, the numbers were different.

Manbeck also shared comments from students, parents and teachers who said they prefer the fully remote pathway over the hybrid option, one reason being that students interface with their teachers every day when fully remote–something that doesn’t happen in the hybrid model.

“We understand the tremendous difficulties this pandemic has forced upon all of us and has challenged our flexibility and resolve,” Chapman posted on the district website. “We want more than anything to open our buildings and have students in our classrooms on Jan. 4, but we need your help. Your continued cooperation in adhering to the safety protoocls are paramount in helping to limit the spread of COVID within our community.”

Chapman encouraged district residents to wear face masks, practice social distancing, and avoid social gatherings.

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