Comstock Park Public Schools sent out a couple of surveys to parents, staff and community members about their preferences for opening school this fall. The majority overwhelmingly wanted face-to-face instruction, with half favoring a hybrid approach and half favoring all-day, every day, Superintendent Dave Washburn said.
With teachers involved in the decision-making, the district settled on a hybrid option: Students will be divided into two groups and attend school on Monday-Tuesday or Thursday-Friday, with Wednesday reserved for deep cleaning. Board members on Aug. 10 unanimously approved the plan, which Washburn called “a happy medium.”
If conditions improve by Sept. 21, the district will move to four days of in-person classes for elementary school students. It is uncertain when the middle and high schools could accommodate the entire student body four days a week.
In a letter to parents, Washburn said the district will continue to work with the Kent County Health Department and other state agencies to identify the best strategies for returning the entire student body to school together. School-specific plans are outlined on www.cpschools.com.
An all-virtual option is also available, with students asked to commit to a full semester. Washburn said the virtual option will be taught by Comstock Park teachers using the Edgenuity platform, a national provider of K-12 online learning solutions. As of Aug. 21, 452 students — approximately 25 percent — out of a student body of more than 1,800 selected the all-virtual option, according to Washburn.
He acknowledged that teachers are anxious about going back to school. Class sizes will start at about 15 students compared to the usual 28-30. Physical education classes will take place outside for as long as possible, and teachers will be able to take their students outside during the school day for breaks from wearing masks.
The district doesn’t expect teacher layoffs. Washburn said there were about nine retirements, and two teachers who were granted a year’s leave of absence. State per-pupil funding remains uncertain until the end of September.
Prior to the pandemic the district spent $200,000 from its general fund on technology. Every student who needs one will be issued a Chromebook as well as personal hotspot if they do not have reliable Internet at home.
Washburn praised the community for being very patient, allowing administrators to take the time to make the best decision for students and staff.