School implements modified education plan
When Holyoke’s one-week extended spring break due to COVID-19 restrictions suddenly became at least a five-week break from school (through April 17), the district sprang into action.
“The education plan we’re moving forward with at this time — we’re being up-front and honest — is a modified education plan,” Superintendent Kyle Stumpf told the Holyoke Board of Education at its Monday, March 23, meeting.
“We won’t be able to replicate a school day, 8-3:45, for every single student at home,” he added.
Due to the 10-person limit for any gathering, Stumpf, along with building principals and the JR/SR high counselor, held 12 meetings with staff Monday to outline a draft for an electronic education plan through April 17.
For the next several weeks, education will involve basic review, with no introduction of new concepts and new skills.
In fact, Stumpf said, 70% of the time the emphasis will be on connecting with the students, making sure they know they can reach out to the trusted adults in the school system.
By Tuesday night, March 24, teachers were to have made contact with all students. Elementary teachers were to contact their homeroom kids, and JR/SR high teachers were to call students in their ICAP classes.
During these calls with students/parents, a question pertaining to the internet service available in the home was to be asked.
For those with fiber connection at home, Stumpf said that PC Telcom has provided the district with a great opportunity to add internet service at $20/month.
For those with no access to fiber connection, Viaero Wireless will provide a wireless hotspot for $30/month.
The district will pick up the tab for students who need either option in order to have internet service.
Stumpf warned that some families may already have internet but the extended usage could exceed their data plan. While they may not need the district’s financial help initially, they could need it a couple of weeks down the road.
Time being scheduled for students to pick up materials
With a clear focus of limiting interaction within the buildings, Stumpf said by the end of this week or first of next, students will have a scheduled time to pick up materials at the schools.
Students need to pick up their Chromebooks and chargers, among other supplies.
Acknowledging that some students don’t have school supplies at home, there will be a supply setup area in both school buildings to provide pencils, graph paper, glue, scissors, construction paper and other items potentially needed by students in their homes.
Teachers will schedule office time two hours per day, connecting through such virtual communication platforms as Zoom, Google Chat or Google Hangouts.
For students taking concurrent enrollment classes through Northeastern Junior College, Stumpf said the class guidelines will be through NJC.
Equitable opportunities for kids were discussed in the modified education plan. Stumpf said they’re making sure that staff understands that not every kid has the same support at home. They may not have a stay-at-home parent, and older siblings may be responsible for the care of younger ones.
There will be some newness with this. Stumpf noted that kindergarten and first graders will get Chromebooks that they’ve never had before.
“But the newness will wear off in a couple of weeks, and teachers will have to do even more,” he added.
What if school break is extended?
Clearly aware that the mandate for schools to be closed through April 17 could extend, Stumpf addressed that potential as well.
He said Gov. Jared Polis will be telling Colorado schools by April 15 whether they can resume on-site classes.
“If this is extended throughout the course of the rest of the school year, we will be pulling people back together — and content specialists — to see if we can’t do something different for the rigor and different for the expectations before they end the school year,” said Stumpf.
“We have an obligation to provide opportunties for enrichment and opportunities for practice and consistency. We’re just working on all the details.”
Stumpf said he is very proud of the staff for taking this on and is pleased to hear some of the creative thoughts with regard to education in electives, as well as core classes.
“We are definitely building and flying and making adjustments to the airplane while we’re in the air. This is new for everybody,” Stumpf added.
Related activities affected
While the focus of Stumpf’s report was on the district’s response for academics, he updated board members on other activities involving the school.
Graduation is the big one, Stumpf admitted. He and counselor Angela Powell are confident that something will be done. It may not be May 17 as scheduled, but there will hopefully be some sort of ending celebration even if it’s later in the summer.
He said it was disheartening to see the girls basketball team have to end their season partway through a state tournament, and he hopes to avoid that for close to 50 graduating seniors.
Three Emerald Award winners have been selected, but the scope of a scheduled April 23 program is unknown. Regardless, Stumpf said they will still give the awards, and The Holyoke Enterprise will be publishing a special section featuring the three winners.
State FFA, FBLA and FCCLA state conferences have either been postponed or canceled, with some looking at potential real-time virtual competition.
Prom is scheduled for May 2, which is later than normal this year. While that may help if schools are back in session, Stumpf noted there are still earlier timelines for confirming such things as catering and music.
“It doesn’t hurt to overcommunicate,” Stumpf acknowledged, as the district attempts to get the word out on any updates.