FAYETTEVILLE -- Consistency will be key as the School District prepares to open its buildings to students this fall, according to some teachers and parents.
Members of the district's Ready for Learning Committee presented their views during the School Board's online meeting Thursday.
The committee of about 33 parents, teachers and district staff members came together over the past month to discuss what worked well and what didn't during the time schools were closed to in-person instruction this spring. The group also was asked to make recommendations for the reopening of the schools.
Katie Jackson, a parent and committee member, said consistency was lacking during the school shutdown. Things such as communication methods and class expectations changed on a weekly basis.
"That's what frustrated many people in the spring," Jackson said. "We've got to be consistent from week to week and be clear with communication to the parents and to the students and to the teachers."
At the same time, there must be room for flexibility, she said.
Steven Weber, associate superintendent for teaching and learning, put the committee together. The committee submitted a six-page report to the administration laying out suggestions and things the schools need to consider before opening.
Their recommendations are grouped by the six components of the Arkansas Ready for Learning Plan: academics; human capital; student support; stakeholder communication, family and community engagement; district operations and fiscal governance; and facilities and transportation.
District leaders have learned many lessons from the covid-19 pandemic, Weber said.
"It just hit us so fast, like it did the rest of the world, that we were making decisions on the fly sometimes," he said.
Principals and teachers did the best they could to reach out to families with needed information, but sometimes it's better for the district to send one message instead of each school sending its own, he said.
Consistency is what Superintendent John L Colbert continues to speak about during executive cabinet meetings, Weber said.
Kyllie Sill-Luton, a teacher at Owl Creek School, said it's important the district get information out to parents as soon as possible once they know what the new school year will look like.
Ashley Rausch, a parent of a third-grader and kindergartner, said one of the committee's concerns was what it means for elementary kids to wear masks all day.
"Obviously the health and safety of the faculty, staff and students is the most important part, but also ... we don't want the joy to be sucked out of it all. I just feel like we've got to think about that, the mental and social aspect also," Rausch said.
The group was asked to give its feedback on the alternative method of instruction lessons provided during the shutdown.
Leanna Jackson, a teacher at Washington Elementary School who also has three children enrolled in the district, said overseeing everything each of her kids had to do, along with different expectations from different teachers, was "overwhelming" as a parent.
Board members chimed in with insight of their own. Justin Eichmann said he foresees disappointment on the part of many who will be unhappy because things are different.
"I think that's going to be a tough thing to manage," Eichmann said. "There's no getting around the fact that this is less than ideal, and so that would be something overall that I would be most interested in, because we've got to make this year as productive and have as much value as we can."
Nika Waitsman, board president, said the district is realizing a need for consistent and informative communication.
"So I'm just hoping that's one of the big things that's come out of this task force is some type of real structured plan for communicating to parents and teachers," Waitsman said.
The purpose of the Ready for Learning Committee’s purpose is “to work together on identifying issues related to this unprecedented time in education as we strive to meet the educational needs of students and teachers as they endeavor to learn and teach in non-traditional ways,” according to the Fayetteville School District.
Committee members will look for gaps in educational planning and assist in communicating a common message throughout our district.
Source: Fayetteville School District