School district wants feedback on next year’s schedule
Survey is asking 12,459 parents, staff and students what should happen with Wednesdays next school year
Eagle County Schools is sending a survey to parents, staff and students in grades 4-12 to get feedback on this year’s use of Wednesdays as a day of remote learning so that teachers have a full day for planning, and to gauge interest in keeping that practice in place for next school year.
The survey is going to 12,459 people in total, the school district said Monday. Results are expected to be released the week of March 15 and shared at the district’s board of education meeting March 24.
Use of Wednesdays for teacher planning and collaboration was a key part in allowing the district to provide modified in-person instruction this school year, Eagle County Schools said.
Classes and schedules were changed this school year to maximize student and teacher interaction in smaller, physically distanced settings. The approach saw all licensed teachers mobilized to provide core instruction wherever possible, with subjects like art, music and physical education embedded within class cohorts to reduce class changes.
As a result, lesson planning, including for in-class and remote instruction, as well as staff meetings, have been done on Wednesdays, providing students with four days of in-person instruction and one day of remote learning, and providing teachers with one full day for planning.
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A hybrid schedule was also needed at the district’s two large high schools. Student body populations were divided in half, with each receiving two days of in-person instruction and three days of remote learning — including Wednesdays.
Summer training on the “flipped classroom” model allowed teachers to work with students so the preparation for strong in-class participation was done by students during remote learning. When in-person, the application and discussion of content occurred to help solidify learning and deepen understanding of concepts, the district said.
According to the district, staff members see a benefit in having a full day of remote instruction for their planning on Wednesdays.
“Teachers feel they are preparing better and more consistent lessons by having the time consolidated into one large chunk instead of spread piece-meal through the days of the year,” Eagle County Schools spokesman Dan Dougherty said.
Some parents have expressed opposition to keeping Wednesdays dedicated to teacher planning next school year, pointing to challenges associated with having the day of remote student learning and saying they would prefer to see the district return to five days of in-person instruction. Other parents, however, have said they prefer keeping Wednesdays as a day of remote learning for students and planning for teachers, saying it helped their children catch up, study ahead, or be fresher for school on Thursdays and Fridays.
“We just need to ask and get a clear and concise picture” of people’s preferences, Dougherty said of the survey.
Options being considered include a return to five days of in-person student instruction with a late start on Wednesdays; keeping Wednesday as a day of remote learning for students and a planning day for teachers, with community activity options available Wednesdays; or moving to a four-day school week, which would make each school day 45 minutes longer and extend the school year by two weeks, with community activity options available for the fifth day.
In announcing the survey, the school district cautioned parents, staff and students to not get prematurely alarmed that a schedule change is imminent, and stressed that survey responses will not be the only data point used to make a decision.
“The school district understands that schedule changes are very difficult to accommodate as they affect the entire community. But with advocates on all sides of the issue, we feel obligated to ask the questions and give everyone in our school community a chance to weigh in on the possibility,” Superintendent Philip Qualman said in a press release Monday.
“Accommodating a schedule change of this magnitude is not easy as the instruction time has to be found in other ways, either more days, longer days, less breaks, and the like. The survey is intended to inform, not direct our plans. It will give us a broad set of information as we begin planning for next school year,” Qualman said.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and altered schedules, the school district had a late start for classes on Wednesdays to provide time for teacher planning, administrative meetings and embedded professional development, with in-person student instruction five days a week.
Tom Lotshaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.