Hybrid learning to return


Griffin DeLadurantaye

Dr. Catherine Cost explaining what we’ve learned about how to handle the pandemic thus far. She explained that we now know compared to what we used to think. “We used to think this would all end by November,” Dr. Cost said, “but now we know we’re in this for the long term.”

The Board of Education held a meeting on January 5 discussing and confirming the return of hybrid learning on January 19.
The primary purpose of the meeting was to vote on the proposal for students to return to face-to-face learning. After a nearly 50 minute long discussion, six out of seven members voted in support of returning; Secretary Theresa Crnkovich was the only member to oppose.
“If I’m the lone ‘no’ vote today, then I am,” Crnkovich said. “I just don’t feel comfortable voting on it yet.”
Director of Operations Bernard Bowers presented information pertaining to cleaning supplies. These include large amounts of hand sanitizer, masks, and new air filters that will be replaced every month. He also spoke about the refurbishment of other buildings like Madison Center and JoBrighton.
“I’m really proud of what my guys and I have done over this past month and a half of no school,” Bowers said, “and I’m really excited for you guys to see it.”
Several arguments were made on each side of the decision during the discussion. One conclusion that came to both sides was that it was impossible to make everyone happy. It was acknowledged that some people will want to return to face-to-face learning as quickly as possible while others will want to be as safe as possible.
“I know we have to care for their physical beings, but we also have to keep the kids’ mental, social, and emotional beings in our minds,” Board of Education Trustee Kathy Kane said. “I know we aren’t going to please everybody all the time, but we need to do what’s best for our kids, and I think getting them back in there as soon as we can is important.”
Kane was recently elected to the WPS Board of Education and this was her first meeting as an active member.
Another issue brought up was a possible spike in cases of COVID from the holidays. This was a reason that Crnkovich wanted to wait to make a decision on returning to school, but Superintendent Dr. Catherine Cost mentioned that the CDC has changed the self-isolation period to 10 days, and Board Vice President Rob Kirby included that if truly necessary, an emergency meeting can be called to halt face-to-face learning.
“I would favor voting on the 19th and going back on the 25th in case we do see that spike occur,” Crnkovich said. “I just don’t want to go back on the 19th and see the numbers rise.”
Those in favor of returning to school on January 19 often mentioned that it will be good for students’ mental health. Members of the Board frequently offered their thoughts on how the lack of socialization and contact between students and their peers as well as students with teachers is having a negative effect on mental wellness, participation, and grades.
“The kids are struggling,” Kane said. “They’re missing that socialization. Some students are doing really well with remote learning, but I also know students that are very good students that are really having trouble being motivated and are just giving up.”
Later in the meeting, Human Resources Director Tonya Brodie explained that ALICE training has been put on hold, but will continue when school is more steady.