MOUNT GILEAD — Following the Dec. 15 Mount Gilead School Board meeting, board members along with teachers and administrators spent an hour discussing the benefits and drawbacks of in-person or face-to-face learning versus hybrid and remote learning.

The school district is presently in a hybrid mode of learning until the end of the grading period Jan. 21 due to the widespread of Covid-19 in the county. Students now are attending school two days and are learning at home or remotely the other three days of the week.

Board member Brandie Salisbury said she has heard concerns of several parents that it is time to go back to five day in-person learning. Salisbury said that as a parent herself, it is difficult for her family to have this situation with so much time learning at home.

Board member Jeff Sayers agreed that at-home teaching is not very successful at his home and he questioned how well students are learning with this hybrid policy now in place. He asked about the possibility of having some buildings open even if others are in hybrid mode.

Both Salisbury and Sayers with board members Virgil Staley and Denny West agreed that face-to-face learning is preferable. They thought it is good for the board to begin considering now whether the district should return students to school five days a week after Jan. 21 when the next grading period begins.

Special education and projects coordinator Molly Clapper noted that some restrictions on classroom attendance come from the Health Department and CDC guidelines. She added that with fewer students in classes with hybrid, a six feet distance can be maintained. With all returning to school it would be only three feet.

“Whatever decision is made, we all need to support the decision,” Clapper said. “We all need to take the bullets together.”

Clapper said that if students go back to five days a week, many more families might request to go to remote learning, which would require the district to have more staff for remote learning.

Superintendent Larry Zimmerman said that students’ attendance is one of the biggest factors for their success in school. He too would prefer school every day.

Zimmerman pointed to the high infection rate of Covid in the community right now. This is an issue of concern for staff as well as families. Buildings could be decided on separately for closing, but many families are connected to students in all buildings. High School and Middle School are also handled differently because oi specific certifications in subjects that the elementary don’t have.

“With hybrid we are able to continue with sports and other extra-curricular activities,” Zimmerman said.

Math teacher Jennifer Edwards said, “I despise hybrid, but with bringing all of them back five days a week will bring back the spread and then we might have to close down completely again.”

Edwards said that teachers talk about how scared they are as they are in meetings.

Middle school teacher Lacie Romshak said she and her family are “scrambling every day” to get kids to school and for her and her husband to get to work.

“With hybrid we have consistency. We have regular contact and my students know I care about them,” Romshak said.

Romshak acknowledged that students my fall behind this year. She said that teachers will make adjustments as students come back next year.

Zimmerman said the board can take another look at how to continue in the organizational meeting on January 5. At that time they will have recommendations of the Health Department and he will look at the numbers in the district. He will also keep following what the staff are doing and thinking.

“There are consequences to any decision.” Zimmerman said.

In other business:

  • The board approved a Memo of Understanding with the Teachers Association of increase in compensation for teachers who are having double duty with remote and in-person learning. The increase will be paid by funds from a Covid grant. Financials were approved for the month of November.
  • The board approved Tyler Butler and Dawn Mrozik as substitute teachers.
  • Approved the following for assistant coaching positions: Sabrina Bolha, volunteer assistant High School track coach; Mason Faux as volunteer Middle School wrestling coach; Mindy Mowery for volunteer assistant swim coach and Robin Turner for Middle School assistant track coach.
  • The board approved notification for North Central Educational Service Center that the district is considering its options for what service center it will use. The state requires that every district contract with an educational service center for special instructors and services.

The organizational board meeting will be Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. at the board office. The monthly meeting will be January 19 at 7 p.m.

By Alberta Stojkovic

The Sentinel