Lawrence school board to review community feedback regarding how school is being conducted amid COVID-19 pandemic

photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence Board of Education meeting room at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, is pictured in this file photo from Feb. 25, 2019.

The Lawrence school board will soon review recently solicited community thoughts about how the district is conducting school amid the coronavirus pandemic.

During its meeting on Monday, the school board will hear an update from district administration about how the district has been operating as the coronavirus pandemic continues into the fall semester. According to a memo to the board members, the report will include a review of feedback the district received through Thoughtexchange, an online communication tool that collects comments from the public.

Julie Boyle, a spokeswoman for the school district, said Lawrence families were asked to respond to the question, “What are some important perspectives or thoughts for the district to consider as we work to ensure a successful and safe school year for students, staff, and families?” The district received almost 4,000 responses.

Additionally, Thoughtexchange allowed those who responded to rate other responders’ thoughts, which were prioritized into “top thoughts.” Boyle said Superintendent Anthony Lewis will present some of those comments to the board.

The responses will likely be varied, as the district has regularly heard from parents and staff about how school is being conducted during the pandemic. Their comments have ranged from some calling for the school to continue using remote learning to limit the spread of the virus to others asking the district to return to fully in-person learning to ensure their children do not fall behind in their education.

Currently the district is using a hybrid in-person learning method. The district finished a weekslong transition to that method earlier this month after starting the school year with six weeks of fully remote learning.

Some of the “top thoughts” that were listed on the Thoughtexchange website show community members expressing frustration over the district’s communication with families during the pandemic. Some asked the district to do a better job on being transparent and effectively communicating the decisions that are made.

“There is a major lack of communication between the district and families and teachers,” one anonymous comment said. “The district has not been forthcoming with info about hybrid, which makes me think the district doesn’t really know what they’re doing.”

Several other comments focused on specific issues, such as asking the district to consider hiring more paraeducators to help students with special needs and to allow parents to choose whether their child will attend in-person or remotely on specific days. Comments also asked the district to make sure staff and students are equipped with personal protective equipment and using it properly while in school.

During the rest of the update, the administrators will report on how hybrid learning is going so far and discuss other topics related to returning to school amid the pandemic.

In other business, the board will meet for a work session to discuss its district instructional framework, a guiding document for the district’s educators to help them deliver effective instruction. According to a memo to the board, a district curriculum and instruction team began revising the framework during the 2018-19 school year.

The school board will meet at 5 p.m. Monday for the work session and regular meeting through an online conference call. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school district encourages the public to watch the meeting on Midco channel 26 or online at youtube.com/USD497.

Those who want to speak during public comments at the meeting can still do so. The district asks for comments to be sent by email to PatronCommentary@usd497.org by 6 p.m. the day of the meeting. Comments can also be emailed to board members ahead of the meeting. Their contact information is available on the district’s website at usd497.org/Board.


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