At a recent Marshall County Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Cindy Wigley addressed several common questions she has been asked lately.
Q. How has online learning been going so far this year?
A. She said she was proud of the teachers, principals and the support staff for how quickly they were able to move from face-to-face instruction at-home learning. These members have been giving their support even though they are making adjustments at their own homes with their families.
The first priority for Marshall County Schools has been the well-being of the students and the staff. Wigley thinks the school system has done a good job with that. She thanked the parents for being there throughout the process.
As for Internet hotspots and Chromebooks, there are over 425 hotspots and over 500 Chromebooks that have been issued to students who were in need of one.
For kindergarten through 8th grade, close to 70 percent of students utilied the iReady platform for online instructions for reading and math. Almost 50 percent of those students have met their weekly time on task goal in math and 41 percent have met their weekly time on task goal in reading.
As for 6th through 12th graders, it is estimated that these students have spent an estimated 20,000 hours in virtual learning. Over a five-week period, Wigley explained that is over 102,000 hours. She went on to explain that that are over 400 students and some of those did not receive a hotspot until April 20.
Besides the online learning, the school system is providing counseling, physical therapy, occupational therapy, behavioral support and speech and learning services.
Q. What will next year look like? Will students physically be back? What are you doing to prepare?
The hope is that all of the students can return to school next year in the traditional face-to-face instruction. Wigley said safety is and will always be the school's number one priority. She said they have been preparing for multiple options. They will continue to plan for virtual, blended and traditional learning as they wait for guidance from the Alabama State Department of Education.
The school system is awaiting the packets to request discretionary funds from the CARES Act. Once they know the parameters, they will be able to move forward. She said they will request approval from the state superintendent for virtual learning options.
Q. Medical supplies from the state?
A. Earlier the same day of the Board meeting, there was a state board meeting held by the Alabama State Department of Education. Wigley said they had discussed the needs at the local level.
She said on a local level, they have ordered and received some of the medical supplies as replacement for what they donated to local doctor's offices, hospitals, pharmacies and grocers. The schools donated the supplies to those who needed the supplies to help when the crisis first struck.
She said they have already received some items back, but without being able to predict the future, she said they would appreciate any state funding provided to the local school systems to assist with the expenses.
Q. Summer school or summer classes?
A. Summer school has had an online learning platform in place for several years. Because they had already sent home the Chromebooks and hotspots, they will continue that services. Wigley said this will be for those students who would qualify for summer school.
These students will have all of the resources they need and they encourage the students to work on skills while on summer break. There are several links and other avenues the students can take to have summer learning.
Q. Message to parents for next year?
A. Wigley said as superintentent, her vision and mission is unchanged. The safety of the students and the staff will continue to be in the forefront of all decisions. They will take the data they have and align resources and services for students to meet both the safety and instructional needs of those served.
After she discussed the questions that had been asked by many, board president Terry Kennamer asked if the school start date may be delayed.
Wigley said the state superintendent has requested they look at the start date. Some school systems are looking at a later start date, but that is just being tossed around.
She explained depending on the resources that the school system has will depend on the decision. A lot of school systems do not have the hotspots or the Chromebooks sent out which means they would not have the option of starting virtually.
Because Marshall County does, Wigley said they have the option. She went on to explain because they were able to send out the equipment and get the kinks worked out, they would be able to do this.
She said the decision will be made another time. She hopes to get some guidance from the state department soon. The board will have to vote on the amended calendar and send it in to the state.
It would need to include virtual learning options, blended options and what they will do once school starts back. She went on to give an example of having to shut down a particular site for a few weeks, what would they school system need to do then.
Kennamer asked about the summer preparation on sports.
Wigley said there is a training scheduled with all of the coaches right now. The most important thing these coaches know right now is how to sanitize. The school purchased some sprayers to keep the student and staff safe during the cold and flu season last year and these sprayers are ideal for situations like the one we are in now.
There will be a training session on how to use the sprayers and the county will follow the state guidelines for schools. The latest announcement did not impact the plans for the school system. They are still considered instruction.
Any athletic guidelines still come from the state superintendent. That means that just because a local gym is open that does not mean the school can open up. They have specific guidelines they have to follow.
She said part of the guidelines starts with the older kids. They will only allow 10 at a time and rotate out with sanitizing in between. The next month would allow for younger children under the age of 12.
This would only apply to workouts not student contact. Drills will require social distancing.
The 10 does include the adults, unless that is amended before workouts start. Wigley believes it is only 10 people at the school, but she is uncertain about this. She said they are waiting for more guidance.
Member Mark Rains asked if the summer feeding program would still be in place.
Wigley said it would still be going on. The YMCA is helping the school with that. Dr. Stephanie Wisener said they will be continuing to do this for a while. They will not being doing it on Memorial Day, but plan on continuing through July. The school systems have had a really good turn out for the assistance.
Board member Brian Naugher is concerned about the hotspots. He would like the board to look at other means because he does not believe they will be able to support hotspots all across the county.
Wigley said they are hoping to get assistance from the local legislators. They have been discussing that and would provide some type of relief for schools. She said there are some local legislators who are very active in that and she would not be surprised to see something in a special session.
The discussion of graduation was discussed and precautions are being taken. Wigley said the will make arrangements as they can. For example, they may have seating on the field for parents. The tickets will vary for each campus. The home side of a football field will hold 1,300 and the visitors side will hold 900 except for Asbury. Their number is 700.
There should be a livestream of each graduation. More information on this will be discussed later.