Parents, Teachers, Students Give Input To PC School Board Of Ed
The Park City School Board is faced with a wide range of opinions about how to safely conduct class during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Park City School District parents have the option to let their children learn online at home, or in person in the classroom. But in a meeting last week, the school board heard arguments both for and against online classes. Two teachers expressed frustration with having to teach students both ways. High School Teacher Melissa Nikolai said the half-day the board gave teachers on Fridays to work after students leave early is not enough. She says having some students in class and some online isn’t working -- and some in her class are failing as a result.
“How do I help you now that it’s 4:00 o'clock Friday afternoon and your paper is due Sunday. I mean I know it's just three or four kids but it's three or four kids. And it's just a snapshot of what we’re dealing with every week. And I guess my point in sharing this with you is that this Friday time is really helpful. I can't thank you enough for it, but I just have to say it's not enough. I would rather catch a kid before they fall into a hole than help then dig out of a hole. I would really like more than anything to have, more than anything, structured, scheduled, required time within the week where I can work specifically with remote students so that I can give them the one on one instruction that they're missing by being remote."
Paula McKay teaches AP World History. She has taught at Park City High School for 22 years.
“When I and my colleagues are repeatedly characterized as a small, disgruntled, group of teachers who are unhappy because we haven’t gotten our way, cuts deep, very deep. It takes courage and conviction to speak up. Teachers look to their unions to organize and speak for them when they don’t have the time, the energy or are fearful. We are very concerned for our health and wellbeing, and of course our students. I have no other agenda but to speak from my heart and to change the narrative that has cast us in such a negative and divisive light. I strongly encourage you to work with us, not against us. We are all dedicated professionals, who can work with you, to find a way to ensure the safety and wellbeing of faculty and students and staff while also ensuring that students continue to learn.”
Parent Shannon Schemmer told the school board the online teaching schedule does not have enough teacher/student instructional time because students are expected to work independently from 7:30 to 10. She said if teachers are going to be held accountable, they should not whittle away instructional time.
“I guess I am a little disappointed that we didn’t’ figure out how to get some technology in the room. I mean it’s going to be hard on the teachers. It's going to be hard on the students and it’s going to be hard on the parents.”
“So, what I want to redirect you to is the presentation that Dr. Hunt gave today.
"It’s on board docs. There’s a grade schedule for what the secondary day looks like and it is a schedule from 7:35 to 2:15 with the only independent work time being from 7:35 to 10:00.”
“Your kids get online and work remotely from 7:30 to 10:00? I mean are they independent? You know what I'm saying? So, it's great for high school kids that are older…”
“Shannon, please. Shannon, please. This isn’t a back and forth. We’ve taken your comment. We’ve accepted it, we’ve heard it. We’ll listen to everyone else. Thank you.”
Park City School Board President Andrew Caplan said the board takes input from teachers, administrators, the PCEA, and district leadership. He said the board is open to discussing ways to support teachers.
“When we need more time, we’ll do what we can to provide it. That means more flexible schedule, whatever it is, we're open to discussing it. We’re here representing families that want their kids in school. That's our only job here to keep the schools open. We’re going to continue to try to work with everyone, all the stakeholders to make sure the that kids can stay at school and educators remain safe.”
Caplan said they received 32 emails, mostly from parents pleading to keep schools open. KPCW asked to see those emails, but the school board declined to show them, saying the letters were directed only to the school board. The board did share a letter that was signed by more than 60 students, which asks to please let them stay in school, and says remote learning is not as effective as in-person learning, and further widens the gap between students who excel academically and those who need help. And two teacher unions – the Park City Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers asked the school board to put the high school to online classes between November 30th and the Christmas holiday.
Park City board of Education meets again on December 15 beginning at 4 P.M.