Alder parents want students in school full-time

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(Posted Nov. 11, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

A couple of parents spoke up at the Nov. 9 Jonathan Alder school board meeting, urging school leaders to return all students to full-time, in-school instruction.

Currently, Jonathan Alder students in grades 5-12 receive instruction in a hybrid format–a combination of in-school and at-home remote learning. Students in grades K-4 go to school full-time four days a week; the fifth day is remote learning.

Brian Kusek, a parent in the district, said he wants to know the district’s timeline for returning all students to school full-time. He said many parents have jobs that make it difficult or impossible to be home with their children for remote learning. This is a financial issue for many families, he said, as well as an educational one.

Kusek urged school leaders to return to full-time, in-school instruction for all students or offer a full-time, in-school option.

Board member Bill McCartney said he understood Kusek’s perspective, but explained that in the buildings where students switch classes, the current 50 percent population setup means fewer students and teachers who could be exposed to and need to quarantine in the instance of a positive COVID-19 case.

Kusek offered up the idea of keeping students to designated classrooms and having teachers teleconference from another room, in some cases. Students would at least be in school and away from home distractions, he said.

“There is nothing this board would rather have than kids in school every day, five days a week–nothing,” said Steve Votaw, board member.

But until testing, vaccines, and all precautions are in place that could make that happen, he continued, the timeline can’t be forced.

“At this point, I don’t think we could reasonably give you a date in which we can plan to come back. It just wouldn’t be responsible on our part,” Votaw said, noting the surge in positive COVID-19 cases locally and around the state.

School leaders look at several factors when deciding which learning format to use during the pandemic. Among them are state health advisory levels, the number of current positive cases, and the number of students and staff in quarantine. Another factor, McCartney said, is direction from Madison County Public Health, the local health department.

“Aren’t those just guidelines?” asked Matt Chaney, a parent in the district. “I think our community and our school district should be able to decide on what’s best for our kids.”

In other action at the Nov. 9 meeting, the board:

  • approved the first of two resolutions required to place a levy on the ballot for next year’s May primary election. The district will seek a 10-year renewal of the 0.5 percent income tax levy first passed in 2014. The levy generates an estimated $1.53 million per year. It applies to earned income only.
  • commended the boys’ and girls’ high school cross country teams, both of which were named Central Buckeye Conference (CBC) champions. The girls’ team finished second at the state meet; the boys’ team finished fifth. Justin Creps coaches both teams.
  • commended the eighth-grade volleyball team, coached by Olivia Jones, for finishing with a 22-0 record and as CBC champions. The class ended their junior high career with a 45-0 record and two league championships, having only ever dropped one set.
  • commended the seventh-grade volleyball team, coached by Jim Eudaily, for finishing with an 18-2 record and as CBC co-champions.
  • accepted a $1,000 from Smiles To Love for t-shirts promoting unity for sixth-graders at Canaan Middle School and a $200 donation from Brian Smith Insurance for citizenship awards at Plain City Elementary.

Misty Swanger, assistant superintendent, reported on a professional development day held on Nov. 3. The focus was the social and emotional well-being of staff members. They participated in activities designed to promote laughter, exercise, camaraderie and creativity to break stress cycles. Activities included outdoor walks, dance-offs, games, music and art projects.

“We have to remember the teachers’ social-emotional health is as important as students’,” Swanger said.

The board’s next meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Dec. 14 in the high school library. Meetings also are streamed on the school district’s Facebook page.

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