Board of Education unanimously votes to return to full time, in-person learning for final quarter
Middle school students will return to full time, in-person learning on March 22, high school students on March 29
Moffat County middle school and high school students will return to full time, in-person learning for the final eight weeks of the school year starting March 22 following a unanimous vote in favor of the return from the district’s Board of Education Thursday night.
Middle school students will return to full time, in-person learning on March 22, while high school students will return on March 29.
The unanimous vote came after a lengthy discussion among board members, district staff members and community members about the effects that hybrid and virtual learning are having on kids mentally and physically.
Kim Serio, a 5th grade teacher in the school district, spoke on behalf of the teachers, arguing that teachers do not want to go back to full time.
“As soon as Mr. Pankow announced at last month’s school board meeting that he wanted to come back full time, we had unhappy members at CMS and MCHS,” Serio said. She added that she sent out a survey to teachers at Craig Middle School and Moffat County High School, with 57 teachers responding between Feb. 5 and Feb. 8.
“At that time, 86% of our respondents did not support the proposal to return to full time, in-person learning for the last eight weeks of the school year,” Serio said.
That position was reiterated by MCHS history teacher Karen Chaney, who is the leader of the building leadership team. Chaney sent out a different survey to teachers at the high school and the middle school.
Some of the questions that were asked were about what are your concerns for returning to full time, in-person learning. The teachers that responded to the survey are concerned about changing their schedule and teaching method in the middle of the semester, the change to a four- by- four schedule for five days a week, and the potential disruption to the students.
As a representative for parents who has students enrolled in the school district, and particularly athletes, Darrell Camilletti spoke about the harmful effects that the school closure is having on the students.
Camilletti argued that as a result of the middle school season being canceled, the local AAU teams should be able to get time in the gyms. He argued that the gyms should be open now, instead of after spring break when the AAU season is winding down.
Board Member Dr. Elise Sullivan presented medical facts in regards to going back to full time, in-person learning in the fourth quarter. She said that Moffat County has had fewer than eight cases of COVID-19 over the last two weeks, and asked whether or not to incentivize voluntary participation in the vaccine or testing program in order to “promote safety for our teachers, staff and students.”
The meeting had presentations by both the principal of Craig Middle School, David Grabowski, and Sarah Hepworth of Moffat County High School
Grabowski showed an example schedule currently and what it would like in person full time. The class sizes would rapidly increase in size as a result of all of the students coming back in person rather than being separated into cohorts. Regardless of going back to full time, in-person learning in the fourth quarter, the school will still have the same bell schedule, have mask breaks, with mandatory mask wearing and seating charts for the classrooms and the lunch room.
The combining of the cohorts would be harder in the high school, according to Hepworth, because of the complexity of the schedule. Zachary Allen, the director of curriculum, educator effectiveness and shared school, made the point that it is harder in the high school than the middle school because the classes on separate cohort days are different.
“The teacher couldn’t possibly teach this class during second period when they are teaching public speaking, and this class on the other day during second period, when they are teaching freshman English and have both of those kids classes together and teach both of those concepts,” Allen said. “It’s just not possible.”
Some of the concerns that Hepworth has for the return to full time, in-person is figuring out what the learning gaps among students will be. She is also concerned about the mental health of students in the current model of not being able to interact with their friends as much as they usually would be able to do.
During the board’s discussion of whether or not to go back to in person for the fourth quarter, board Vice President JoBeth Tupa brought up the fact that she wants students to be back full time, but also understood and acknowledged the concerns that the teachers have about the decision.
After consideration of the sides of the decision, the board unanimously voted to go back to full time, in-person learning in the fourth quarter. Allen did note that this was under discussion earlier in the school year and then cases spiked so, that this was not set in stone as a decision and is very much dependent on what happens moving forward regarding the pandemic.
Friday afternoon, Moffat County School District sent out a letter to parents and staff, announcing the decision.
“The Board of Education, along with district administration, appreciates and values our teacher’s and staff’s efforts to make this transition a reality,” Superintendent Scott Pankow wrote in Friday’s letter. “We also want to thank all of our community for the extra efforts and supports needed during this past year of hybrid and remote learning.”
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