BY MELINDA SKUTNICK
The Mooresville Graded School District Board of Education has unanimously approved a plan to bring students in grades 6-12 back to the classroom beginning on March 15.
The “Modified” Option 2, selected by the Board during Tuesday’s meeting following approximately three hours of discussion, will return students at the middle and high school levels to in-person, in-building instruction at least one day per week.
Students in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth grade will continue on the current cohort plan that was implemented in November 2020. Sixth-graders will follow a “half-and-half” plan, as termed by Superintendent Stephen Mauney, as they return to in-classroom instruction.
Similar to the “simultaneous” learning plans adopted by other districts, MGSD’s plan involves students in sixth grade connecting with their teachers and classmates five days per week. All five days will include instruction to all students – half within the intermediate classroom and half via remote, virtual learning. This plan has two days of in-person instruction within the school building, two days of in-person instruction via remote learning from home and one day of fully remote learning for the entire class.
“This takes care of the virtual option that we have to provide without having to redistribute [classrooms] or adding more kids to the [Mooresville Online Academy],” said Mauney. “And it allows for kids to have contact with their teacher five days per week.”
Under the Modified Option 2, a single teacher will provide a lesson to the entirety of his or her sixth grade class for the first half of the scheduled block, teaching students in-person and remote together. Halfway through the period – approximately 45 minutes – the remote learning students will log off while the in-person, in-building students receive small group remediation, one-on-one help, manipulatives, demonstrations and more. The in-building students will have a full day of school, including lunch, recess, enhancements and other in-person experiences.
Two cohorts per classroom are anticipated, which will alternate on an AA/BB schedule to each receive two days within the building and two days of at-home education in addition to the full day of remote learning for all students in grade six.
Three potential options for the district’s fourth quarter of the school year were presented at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting:
Option 1 retained the current learning model for all grade levels.
Option 2 extended “half-and-half” instruction to grades 4-6 and returned middle and high schoolers to the classroom at least one day per week.
Option 3 remained the same at the secondary levels as well as sixth grade while bringing K-5 students back to school five days per week.
“I do worry about the options that we have at the K-6 level,” said Board member Kerry Pennell. “I believe that the logging on and off model won’t work.”
Under Option 2’s hybrid educational model, remote students will be dismissed from their first class of the day with a 35-minute break before returning to the virtual classroom for the day’s second course.
Pennell expressed worry for distracted students and those who may choose not to return after the lengthy pause.
However, according to Mauney and several other members of the MGSD executive team, this plan was the only course of action that would bring students into the physical classroom with teachers while maintaining the state requirement of a remote learning option. It also would prevent a possible redistribution of students and teachers.
“If we follow the current model, I foresee having parents opt for virtual then having to redistribute teachers to the virtual [MOA],” said Mauney, noting that kids in that teacher’s class would then be moved among other sixth-grade teachers. “For me, personally, and from my professional opinion, that is particularly concerning at this point in the year.”
All Board members agreed swiftly about K-3 and 7-12 plans moving into the fourth quarter.
Said board member Deborah Marsh: “I feel strongly that at the K3 configuration, that it needs to stay the same. They’ve already changed three times with the exceptions of staff who have had to change five times. Consensus is things are working, people are set in their routines, families and children know what to expect, and now, because of that consistency, they are seeing growth in academic achievement.”
Chairman Roger Hyatt called himself an “old school guy” with a preference for bringing all students into the school building, but he noted the difficulties of state guidelines that must be followed.
“I want to get as many kids back in the building with our teachers as much as we can. We just have to figure out how to make it work,” he said.
Following significant discussion and reluctance from Pennell as well as nearly 45 minutes of public comment, the Board unanimously approved the modified version of Option 2 that would only introduce half-and-half learning at the sixth grade level and also bring 7-12 students back into the building.
In the days ahead, parents of secondary school students will receive a survey from MGSD asking if they opt in or out of in-building instruction for their children. The results from that survey will determine how many days per week that students in grades 7-12 return to school.