In a unanimous decision, the WSD Board of Education voted for all high schools to switch to Level 3: Virtual learning during a special board meeting held on Nov. 10. Schools will cease five-day a week in-person learning and begin full virtual learning on Monday, Nov. 16.
“People are doing their best to stay open to meet the needs of students, but you can see what we’re facing relates to absences. And what continues to happen relates to absences as well,” Superintendent Dr. Cain said. The low fill rates of schools across the district brought the board members to believe that schools cannot safely continue in Level 1, as the fill rate for the week of Nov. 9 is only 46%.
“How do we sustain, provide a level of education, coupled with a level of safety within our learning environments, when you have these pillars? That is our question. That is our challenge,” Dr. Cain said.
The Roadmap to Reopening Plan details Level 3 as instruction that will include live teaching, recorded videos, instruction in small groups and individually, learning activities, and homework. Tentatively, the return date for high schools is set for Jan. 4, 2021.
The daily routine for high school students will look different from their Level 1 routine, as Level 3 includes a block schedule. Students will have a smaller number of classes each day, each lasting 80 minutes with a one hour lunch break and 15 minute passing periods. The school day will last from 7:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m, with an 80 minute academic support period every other day to replace Academic Intervention. This measure was made to ensure that students will have the resources they need to still remain successful in their schoolwork. During this time, students will be able to have one-on-one check-ins with teachers and attend office hours for additional help in specific classes. Students participating in the CAPS and Lewis and Clark programs will still be able to continue participation in those programs while attending school virtually. Likewise, sports and activities are set to continue.
“The numbers that you’re hearing help reinforce the fact that we have been fighting, literally fighting, to keep staff in front of our students for months,” Dr. Cain said.
As certainly not an easy decision made, the recommendation to move to Level 3 was made by Dr. Cain following a strain on available substitute teachers to cover for quarantined staff members. According to the Daily COVID Dashboard, 316 staff members district wide have been actively exposed to COVID-19 as of Nov. 9. While Dr. Cain’s proposal was contested by Director Dale Schaper and Director Sandy Garber during the discussion, a motion to bring the recommendation to a vote was made by Director Brad Buchanan.
“I kind of wonder about first of all are the guidelines that the district has set down,” Director Garber said. “Apparently, what I’m reading from a lot of parents is that they’re not feasible. And the other thing is that I’ve mentioned this a couple of different times. But it seems like, you know, it’s just completely dismissed.”
The switch to Level 3 was made in hopes that while maintaining their health and safety, the students and staff in the Wentzville School District can continue their education and work, respectively. It will also allow for the hiring of more staff members, as there has been a decrease in available staffing on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s exhausting for everyone involved so I just think it’s not going to be perfect,” board vice president Dr. DeWeese said. “None of this is going to be perfect but every district is experiencing the imperfection. The world is experiencing all those imperfections.”