What Lies Ahead
July 27, 2020
Wentzville School District (WSD) students are faced with a fork in the road.
On July 20, the Board of Education held a live-streamed meeting in the Liberty High School auditorium to present the structure of schooling for the upcoming year, starting on August 24. Called the “Roadmap to Reopening Plan”, the 34 page document details two options: a three-leveled option allowing for movement between in-person and virtual schooling, and a virtual option. The decision to allow for in-person schooling was not one that was reached easily, and has been in the works before the Wentzville School District initially shut down on March 16.
“We have all really been focused, trying to figure out a means to allow students and staff to be able to come back in a safe manner so that we can do what we do, which is helping folks to learn,” WSD Superintendent Dr. Curtis Cain said.
With the well-being of students and staff in mind, Dr. Cain carefully articulated the plan with the help of other superintendents in the region as well as the director of the St. Charles County Department of Public Health, consulting them multiple times each week. As COVID-19 is still present, the Roadmap to Reopening Plan also detailed preventative measures students will have to take if they are attending school in-person. For high school, measures include required face coverings, hand sanitizer dispensers in all classrooms, and self-screening before coming to school.
Choosing a schooling option will in no doubt be overwhelming for students, tied between academic and safety concerns.
“Part of me wants to go back, but I also have to think about so many other factors,” junior Arti Franklin said. “Online schooling is hard for me and tons of others, and there’s the risk of falling behind.”
In addition to safety considerations, the Board of Education took into account all sorts of experiences that school provides, such as the invaluable student-teacher interactions and extracurricular opportunities.
“It’s not just within the classroom, it’s in those other spaces that you’re learning, you’re growing, you’re stretching, and you’re challenging yourself. And we want to be able to do as much of that as we can, through the 2020-2021 school year,” Dr. Cain said. “Will it be different? Yes. Will it look different? Yes. But we’re still going to be able to do the closest facsimile to school that we’re going to be able to with this pandemic.”
But all factors considered, familial obligations will take precedence for Franklin and likely, many other students.
“Ultimately, my mom will only let me do virtual,” Franklin said. “I have family that’s at risk and she made it clear that no matter my grades, my health and safety should be my number one priority.”
For staff members, unwavering concerns for safety and academic well-being are no different. Psychology teacher Mr. Barker is excited to see students and fellow teachers again, but wishes all don’t forget the ramifications of in-person schooling.
“I hope people remember that just because they might not be in an ‘at-risk’ population, but they interact with others who are,” Mr. Barker said. Having to prepare for both in-person and virtual schooling, teachers have to make modifications to their lesson plans to accommodate for the unprecedented circumstances the pandemic brings. For Mr. Barker’s AP Psychology class, modifications include recording his lectures and creating alternatives to experiments that involve physical interactions.
The Wentzville School District’s reopening plan has been published but still remains malleable, privy to changes in the severity of the pandemic. Dr. Cain and the Board of Education check data related to the status of COVID-19 cases in St. Charles County every day, making sure their decision remains well-informed and in the best interest of the students— an interest that for Dr. Cain, extends beyond his duties as a superintendent.
“I know people see me as superintendent, but I’m a dad first, and so I have those same thoughts that every other parent has,” Dr. Cain said. “I just happen to have those thoughts about not only about my two kids, but the 17,000 plus students that we have in the Wentzville School District. I want every single student to be able to go to school, and then return your respective home in a safe and healthy manner.”
As the upcoming school year will be a new learning experience for students and staff alike, Dr. Cain has a reminder for high schoolers: younger students are looking up to you.
“The more they see appropriate behavior by our older students, the more they’re going to be willing to engage in that appropriate behavior,” Dr. Cain said. So as students of Liberty, Holt, and Timberland set the example for the district, the staff hopes they will hold on to the skills they gain throughout the year.
“I’m hopeful that we come out on the other side of this stronger,” Mr. Barker said. “But we can’t lose the lessons from this pandemic.”
July 20, 2020 Board of Education Meeting