Parent-teacher conferences go virtual

Parents can sign up now, conferences being held Thursday

Parents+can+sign+up+for+a+conference+slot+via+SignUp+Genius.+The+teachers+individual+sign+ups+are+on+this+PDF.

Parents can sign up for a conference slot via SignUp Genius. The teacher’s individual sign ups are on this PDF.

This is how we’ve been running school since September so I think the teachers are comfortable with it. I think the students are comfortable with it, and I think it should be a pretty straight-forward way to handle conferences this year.”

— English Teacher Sean Soules

Parent-teacher conferences are being conducted online amidst rising COVID-19 cases in Wyandotte.
After the end of the first quarter comes the time for parent-teacher conferences, and under normal circumstances, it would not be a pressing issue. However, as a result of numerous cases of RHS students infected with COVID-19 and more students having to be quarantined for two weeks, the meetings are taking place via private Zoom meetings.
“Given the circumstances, this is probably the best idea because you’re limiting contact between people and still somewhat have that face-to-face interaction,” Social Studies teacher Scott Ballelli said. “In-person [meetings] would have been better and more personable, but I think for just the safety of the staff and the parents, this is better.”
An email from administration was sent out to parents with a link to SignUpGenius, a self-volunteering website, where parents can book an available time slot to meet with their child’s teacher as well as access the teacher’s Zoom room code to meet virtually.
“I think we’ve really evolved and changed over the last ten years in education,” Principal Ben Reynolds said. “Parents have the ability to check a student’s grade at any given time and emails are a strong method of communication. Gradually and understandably, attendance for parent-teacher conferences have declined over the last several years because of that. I think this is a good way where a parent can still sign up for a time, get a quick conversation with a teacher and make it work during a pandemic.”
Teachers will be stationed at their desks and in front of their computer screens throughout the entire duration of the conferences, but conducting meetings over Zoom is nothing new for RHS teachers.
“I think [virtual conferences] are great,” Language Arts teacher Sean Soules said. “This is how we’ve been running school since September so I think the teachers are comfortable with it. I think the students are comfortable with it, and I think it should be a pretty straight-forward way to handle conferences this year.”
Some hold the belief that holding meetings virtually may hinder attendance from parents as opposed to holding conferences in-person with social distancing measures in place and requiring masks, since not all parents/guardians have had experience with Zoom prior to conferences.
“My biggest concern is probably accessibility for the parents,” Ballelli said. “Some parents are knowledgeable about how to access Zoom meetings, others probably aren’t very sure.”
Despite some of these beliefs, holding virtual meetings may actually make much-needed meetings between teachers and parents/guardians easier since they can chat from their homes without physically waiting in line for an indefinite amount of time. Additionally, older or compromised individuals would not have to risk their own health in order to sit down with their child’s teacher and parents of quarantined students can still converse with teachers as well.
“I believe this would make it easier for parents to meet,” Reynolds said. “We do principal advisory meetings every month, where parents can come meet with the principals [in the district] virtually, and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback.”
As efficient or accessible these meetings may be, there comes the cost of interconnectivity and genuine sociability usually found in typical parent-teacher meetings. Every meeting is in a fixed window of time so teachers and parents alike can meet with each other in the quickest available fashion, so addressing a student’s necessary improvements or growth is the primary focus.
“I like seeing people live, and I like conversations where you can actually sit down with someone instead of seeing them through a screen,” Soules said. “I don’t think it’s a real problem. [The parent and I] can get straight to the point and talk about what we have to talk about. I just don’t think there’ll be that camaraderie that usually happens at a parent-teacher conference.”