MPS school board approves plan to bring students back to in-person learning


Chancey Boyce, Web Editor

The Monroe Public Schools school board approved a plan tonight to transition students back to school in-person by March 15, with high school students returning to a hybrid learning format (two days in person, two days asynchronous). 

The plan will be reevaluated after spring break, which is April 2-11.

The meeting was open to the public and held on Zoom with the board on a panel, allowing for community members to ask questions after presentations were made. Board president Bob Nichols, who led the meeting, said contact will be made to those who spoke in order to answer their questions fully.

The eleven board members and board Superintendent Dr. Julie Everly presented the plan that would begin slowly bringing students back to in-person learning in a series of waves beginning on March 1, starting with its youngest students. Everly stated that the plan was a result of a drastic drop in the number of reported COVID-19 cases in Monroe County zip codes. 

“The fourteen-day average (of reported COVID-19 cases) in our zip codes just yesterday was 2.14. In November, the numbers were as high as 76 and 84. So, we have drastically improved,” Everly said.

The plan begins with students at elementary schools coming back within the first two weeks of March. On March 9, seventh and ninth graders will be invited back for in-person learning. Everly said the decision to bring those two grades back ahead of the other middle and high school students was to help transition them to a new building. 

All students between seventh and 12th grades will be returning for a hybrid-style learning environment beginning on the week of March 15. The students will attend school two days every week: either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday, depending on where their last name falls in the alphabet. Class sizes are cut in half this way to make social distancing easier, according to the plan. 

On the days when the students are not at school, the students will be engaged in an asynchronous-type learning or video conferencing at home. Remote learning will remain an option for now.

Learning labs will remain open for students when they are not attending in-person learning. 

Executive Director of Student Services Terry Joseph, who described what the return to in-person learning would look like for high-school students, added that no in-person learning will take place on Fridays. Students will attend TFT and optional teacher office hours as they have all year. No learning labs will be available Fridays in order for the school to be cleaned.

Technology Director David Payne said that more technology improvements are being made in the following week, such as new chrome books, webcams for staff, power adapters and mobile podiums for remote learning. Also, technology-safe wipes will be supplied to every room. 

Busing schedules will be published in the next couple of weeks. Students will have assigned seats to and from school, must wear masks at all times and seats will be skipped when possible. Parents can look for a document with bus expectations for students as well. 

Holly Wallace, coordinator of the Summer Learning Academy, spoke about the increased opportunities coming this summer from June through August. “This summer will be spectacular and will be filled with choice,” Wallace said. 

The decision was met with some controversy; however, many community members who spoke  thanked the board for all its hard work on this plan, who in turn emphasized that the plan will evolve. 

“This is an evolutionary situation, which will be updated on a monthly basis,” said board member Matthew Bunkelman.