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Preston School District’s focus will be on finding out how teachers and students can return to learning at school this fall, said superintendent Marc Gee following the district’s board meeting last week.

Over the last two months of learning at home, parents, teachers and students have recognized the benefits of attending class, said Gee.

“It brought to light how important it was to have that one on one interaction,” he said. Nevertheless, he said he was very pleased with the efforts Preston’s school teachers made to connect with their students.

“We had so many teachers that were willing go out of their way to try to find ways to connect. They were making cookies together at home, holding zoom meetings, holding group discussions, some of them learned how to use online platforms who’d never done it. These were things that made the difference for us moving forward,” he said.

The most challenging part of the whole experience, he said, was at the opposite end of the spectrum. For a variety of reasons, depending on the school, the teachers were not able to have “regular engagement with 5-15 percent of their students,” he said. The younger the students, the more contact they seemed to have with their teachers.

Some youth in the junior high and high schools got jobs, others had trouble with internet connections.

Although the government regulations may not allow for classes to return to normal, returning to class in the fall “is our goal,” said Gee. How the district will create social distancing within a classroom has yet to be determined, as well.

Gee noted the retirement or resignations of four people in the district: family and consumer sciences teacher Lynn Harris is retiring, college prep/English teacher Ellen Gregory is moving, and kindergarten teacher Janell Owens is resigning and cheerleading coach Kim Hobbs is resigning. The district is currently interviewing applicants for those positions.

The district was advised of an update to its science curriculum for grades 5-12. The new system is a more integrated approach and students in grades 5-8 will be taught at the same time instead of focusing on just one. At the high school, students will focus on one topic at a time, such as physical science, chemistry, biology, etc.

“It has been at least 14 years since they adopted new source materials,” said Gee. The new texts books come with electronic versions and complies with the new science standards adopted by the State of Idaho/

Finally, the district discussed how to prepare for budget cuts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The state is cutting 5%, but that doesn’t mean 5% for us — most likely it will be closer 2-3 percent for us. We are working through budget process now to see how we’ll manage that,” he said.

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