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Asynchronous days for teacher planning may be in on-campus students’ future

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Johnson Elementary students COVID-19

Students registration for the Williamson County Schools spring semester begins Oct. 5.

Williamson County Schools Board of Education received an update on pandemic-related issues in the schools during its work session on Thursday, including new COVID-19 case numbers and a progress report on WCS Online struggles.

Superintendent Jason Golden said while Brentwood High School saw a recent spike in cases, it avoided a temporary shutdown as the virus “got under control” in the school. However, Fairview High has been closed for several days after attendance dropped from its normal average of 96.5% to 67% due to quarantined students and staff.

As of 3 p.m. Tuesday, 674 students and staff members were affected by COVID-19 districtwide, Golden said, and 10 staff members and 57 students tested positive for the virus, with 28 staff members and 579 students in quarantine due to close contact. This represents a 166% increase in the virus’ effect on the district over the last two weeks and a 30% increase over the last week.

District 6 board member Jay Galbreath suggested the district start sharing school-specific case data.

“Everybody’s hungry for data,” he said.

Golden said the county's health department will now be contacting students who are to be quarantined rather than the district reaching out on behalf of the health department.

Juli Oyer, assistant superintendent of elementary schools, and Leigh Webb, assistant superintendent of secondary schools, shared news concerning the WCS Online program, saying finding time for teachers is still a focus. While all elementary teachers involved in WCS Online are fully dedicated to online, the majority of middle- and high-school teachers involved in WCS Online are split between traditional and online classes.

Golden said scheduling some asynchronous learning days for traditional/remote students on six Fridays throughout the semester is something the district is considering and is being piloted on Tuesday. These days may have a blend of synchronous and asynchronous learning.

“I can’t imagine that six months ago I would have ever entertained the possibility of having an asynchronous day in the middle of the school year, but … the needs for our teachers and time is so great that it’s worth us thinking outside the box,” Golden said.

David Allen, assistant superintendent of teaching, learning and assessment, said synchronous learning is valuable for students, but teachers need time to plan.

“As much as it breaks my heart — and I know it does Jason and everybody else on this Zoom — to take kids out of the classroom when we fought so hard to put them back in the classroom, we also recognize that just time in classroom without the collaborative time and planning and preparation and getting our professionals together to do the best that they can — we’re not maximizing our opportunity with students,” he said.

The board debated for a while whether or not they should vote on these asynchronous days and decided to allow for the pilot on Tuesday and then return to the issue.

Oyer said her team has identified 15 online teachers who have successful online practices that may help other teachers, and those teachers will share their methods and collaborate with others.

Webb said on the middle- and high-school level, her team is looking to implement more synchronous instructional time for students. She also said with a professional development day coming up on Tuesday, Edgenuity, best practices, grading and tech support will be topics of focus.

Golden said some parents have said they would like to do away with Edgenuity altogether. He said the platform works well for some teachers and not as much for others, but the district is committed to serving all students.

For more information, visit WCS.edu.

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