COVID-19 and the many implications caused by the ongoing pandemic was the key issue of the West Side School Board for the month of May.
The trustees brainstormed about how to handle the 2020-2021 school year and still maintain social distancing. Several ideas were brought up and examined. No cohesive plan has emerged as of yet but many potential elements of one have been brought up: having grades K-5 students come for a half a day every day, and having grades 6-12 attend every day, with some students watching a recording of the class online from home or a recorded session. This was suggested by Superintendent Spencer Barzee in the belief that older students would be better able to work from home but younger students who are still learning the basics, like reading and writing, would do best in a classroom setting. One of the key concerns during the entire thought process was inadvertently leaving a young child home alone due to both of their parents working that day. Another consideration is that around 55% of the district rides the bus since many of the high school students have access to a car.
Lunch was another issue. If the district tries to run students through the cafeteria the social distancing requirement would eat up instructional time. An alternative suggested a sack lunch which students to take home. It was briefly joked that perhaps they could have the sack lunches on the bus for the afternoon students, but considering how hard the district is trying to retain their bus drivers no one felt like chancing it; that topic of student behavior on busses, lead into a side discussion about how to enforce social distancing on the busses.
The idea of hiring more paraprofessionals to essentially babysit students on the bus and, if necessary, in classrooms, was suggested if the district should need to stream classes live to a separate classroom.
Near the end of the discussion the board was asked about fall sports and the school’s long track record of placing high in, or even winning, state football. High school principal Tyler Telford said that all fall activities have yet to be determined, but that he is certainly planning and hoping for sports to take place as normal.
With plenty of food for thought the board moved onto the next coronavirus conundrum: graduation. With the health department’s approval, and weather permitting, the district will hold a ceremony on the football field on May 20 at 6 pm. Each graduate will be allowed to bring family members that live in the same household, and each group must social distance on the football field. If the ceremony is rained off the field and into the auditorium, each graduate will be allowed four tickets each for their family members. This will allow for social distancing to occur in the auditorium. For family that can’t attend the ceremony KACH radio will broadcasting audio and video of the graduation ceremony live from mylocalradio.com.
In advance of this meeting a questionnaire was sent out to the senior class listing several options for an end of the year ceremony. There were five options listed: a parade down West Side Highway, a virtual graduation, a combination of the two, a traditional graduation on June 26, or nothing at all. In a twist of irony, given the board’s desire for normalcy and a return to tradition, the “nothing at all” option proved most popular among the class of 44 students coming in at two-thirds of the total votes.