RE-1 Valley School Board gets update on distance learning

It has now been just a little over two weeks since RE-1 Valley School District rolled out distance learning for students, and while it hasn’t been without glitches, teachers are doing the best they can to ensure students are still learning even with schools closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

During a virtual school board meeting Tuesday, Interim Superintendent Ron Marostica shared that when he sent a notice out last week that the district would be extending distance learning through the end of the school year, May 28, he could almost feel the sigh of relief from teachers. They are relieved because now they can either plan more specifically what’s going to happen with students going forward or for those who have planning done for the remainder of the year, they can address getting ready for summer school classes that are offered or next school year.

“We are concerned and need to be concerned about what’s happening with our older students, most specifically the middle school, but especially Sterling High School,” Marostica said.

He told the board that SHS Interim Principal Mark Appelhans is well aware of that and has been checking in with his teachers on a regular basis, meeting with them to talk about things like what attendance looks like in their classes as far as they can tell.

“The sense from teachers that I’ve talked with as well is that the kids really are participating at a level that is equal to and maybe in some cases with certain students even better than when they were required to be in the building,” Marostica said, adding “we’re learning as we go.”

While the district hopes to have students back in buildings in the fall, should distance learning need to continue RE-1 will enter the 2020-21 school year “with a much clearer vision of how to do things and will continue to learn,” he said.

Board member Jennifer Ogley commented that she has heard from parents that they would like the district to look at due dates for assignments, because they seem to fall all over the place, including on Easter or over the weekend. She suggested the due dates fall Tuesday through Friday when school is supposed to be in session.

Marostica acknowledged that’s something they need to work on and pointed out another concern is the grading situation with the distance learning, which is an issue with teachers across the board, but most especially at the secondary level.

“For some kids, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent, they complete assignments because they are graded. There are those who would argue that a kid ought to be motivated by something other than just a grade, but the fact is that isn’t true of every single kid, so the idea that some kids are able to say ‘all I have to do is just show up and I get credit,’ we need to look at that seriously. Teachers have raised that question and we are going to look at it,” Marostica said.

He shared that because it’s a smaller school, etc., the grading is not as much of an issue at Caliche School compared to SHS and Sterling Middle School.

Ogley also gave kudos to kindergarten teachers who are attempting to do Google Meets with their entire class.

“It is difficult to say the least for those teachers to try and communicate with all those kids that think the teacher or their classmates need to see their dog or their bedroom. I applaud them for the attempt to try to get the kids all on board,” she said.

Ronda Monheiser thanked the parents and community for their support during this time, and the teachers for all their efforts in making this work, “because it’s been a monumental task to get it all going and they’ve gone above and beyond.” She also encouraged teachers to set some limits and be able to find sometime for themselves.

“It is a big job, what I’ve seen is that the teachers are being as flexible, or at least in my experience I’ve seen them be flexible,” Ogley said, sharing that with SMS, she’s seen some teachers asking students what time they want to have their Google Meets session at and others are doing their Google Meets at a certain time and letting the students know what hours they are available to help them.  “I know it has been difficult for the younger kids, because of time wise, you can’t necessarily expect the teachers at the grade schools to work all evening, so it has been a balancing act. But, it does seem like they are trying to be flexible, from what I’ve seen.”

The board also heard an update on the distribution of grab-an-goal meals, which will continue through the remainder of the school year.

According to Joleen Locke, RE-1’s food service director, the first day they provided the meals they served 101 and on Tuesday they served 343 at the Sterling High School site and they are up to 76 meals a day being delivered to the Caliche community by a volunteer. Since April 1, they have served 3,600 meals.

“The volunteers have been great,” she said.

The district plans to continue to emergency feeding until Friday, May 29 and then hopefully transition right into the Summer Food Service Program on June 1. Typically those meals are served at Prairie Park, but this year they likely will be served at SHS.

RE-1 put in its application in for the SFSP Tuesday and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program, has told the district they will be reviewing how things will have to be done over the summer because of COVID-19. USDA requires children to stay on site and eat it the meals, but they dropped that requirement for emergency feedings and could possibly drop it for the SFSP.

The district partners with the Sterling Parks, Library and Recreation Department to offer the SFSP, with the PLR Department providing games and activities for the children. Locke shared that Recreation Superintendent Monty Waite has been in contact with her and they are still willing to help with setup and provide activities that the children can take home.

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