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Demanding “Live Learning,” FASD Board Overrules School Administration Preferences

After hearing angry statements from residents about the inability of children to return to full-time status and a complicated explanation from school administrators about the difficulty of reopening the elementary school full-time during the pandemic, Fairfield Area School Board members took action and voted to install cameras in each of the school’s classrooms to provide “live learning.”

Superintendent Michael Adamek said bringing elementary students back full-time was possible, but difficult, even though needed substitute teachers and plastic safety shields were available. “If you want us to come back 5 days a week within a 2- week period, we’re confident we can do that,” said Adamek.

Saying maintaining required social distances by fitting students into available spaces if they were all in school every was like “puzzle pieces,” Adamek proposed “an a la carte menu,” grade by grade, which made use of the library, music room, cafeteria, and gym as classrooms.

Adamek said more custodians, substitutes, aides, and teachers would need to be hired, but “we can have this all accomplished within two weeks.”

The administration said most teachers recommended staying in the current A/B hybrid model, and Adamek said he also preferred to stay on the A/B schedule until the end of the year.

Board member Earl Shutt proposed moving to a 12-month school year from July through the end of June, but Adamek said a summer program aimed to “close some gaps” was already planned.

Abruptly changing the direction of the discussion, board member Jack Liller made a multipart motion:

  • Beginning April 7, all students, while remaining on the A/B schedule, would begin “live learning” during their at-home days, using cameras to be installed in the classrooms.
  • Beginning April 7, Mondays will become an A/B in-person learning day.
  • If the county level COVID-19 transmission rate were to return to “moderate” from its current “substantial” state, the classroom situation would be revisited.
  • If he county were to return to a “low” transmission level, the schools would return to five-day in person learning.

School staff members noted the difficulty and cost of implementing the “live learning” approach, saying installing computers with cameras speakers would be expensive and difficult, that the quality of the connections would likely be poor, and that teachers would have to learn how to make use of the video setup.

It was also noted that children at home would have to be on their computers all day with their parents, following the classes that were happening in school, and that in many classrooms children moved around rather than staying in one place.

The motion narrowly passed on a 5-4 vote with Jennifer Holtz, Jack Liller, David Millstein, Lashay Kalathas, and Rhonda Myers voting in favor. Shutt, Lauren Clark, Joshua Laird, and President Marcy Van Metre voted against the proposal.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be on March 8.

“Kids in lower schools might have a rotating schedule and that full-time subs would be used.

Cost would bel $110K for one school  costs are high.

Consistency was cited as an issue.

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Charles Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Publisher and Editor in Chief.

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