Lawrence school board to hear reports on reopening schools, racial equity within district
photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo
Discussions on the Lawrence school district’s work related to reopening schools amid the coronavirus pandemic and its work on racial equity are on tap for next week.
During its meeting on Monday, the Lawrence school board will hear another update from its task force charged with planning for reopening schools, this time focusing on how the district’s first week of remote learning has gone. The board will also receive its annual report on the district’s work on racial equity, such as hiring more teachers of color.
The school district’s 2020-21 school year, which began on Tuesday, will be conducted through remote learning methods for the first six weeks. The task force is working on a plan to reopen schools, likely moving to a hybrid learning option after the initial remote learning period.
The task force is expected to report to the board on the level of student engagement through remote learning during the first week of school, according to a memo to the board. The task force will also update the board on student technology accessibility during the period, which includes whether students have internet access to log into their remote learning classes.
Additionally, there will be discussions on how sports and activities will be conducted during the pandemic and what the district’s hybrid learning model could look like when students return to school buildings later this fall. Currently, athletics and activities have been allowed to continue, despite guidance from Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health recommending that “high risk” sports, such as football and soccer, be prohibited from competing, the Journal-World has reported.
During the equity report, district officials will update the board members on the district’s effort to recruit and retain teachers of color.
According to data provided to the board, the district saw a very slight increase in retention of Black teachers from the 2018-19 school year to the 2019-20 school year, but saw a decrease in retention of Asian, Hispanic and Native American teachers during the same period. All told, during the 2019-20 school year, 90% of the district’s teachers were white, while Black and Hispanic teachers made up roughly 3% each. Native American teachers made up 1.5% and Asian teachers made up less than 1%.
The report will also focus on staff training related to conversations about race and culturally relevant teaching, among other issues.
In other business, the board will consider approving student fees for the 2020-21 school year. However, some of the fees will only be assessed if students return to classrooms full time.
The proposed fees are identical to the fees that were charged for the 2019-20 school year, which apply to students in certain courses and extracurricular activities. For example, the district’s welding course includes a $20 course fee, while all sports have a $50 participation fee.
The board will also consider formally recognizing the recently created paraeducators union, PAL-CWA. The board previously gave initial approval to recognize the union, asking the district administration to begin the process of opting into the Public Employer-Employee Relations Act, a state law regarding public employee unions.
The issue is listed in the consent agenda, which allows the board to consider and approve several items in one motion unless a board member or member of the public asks to pull an item for discussion.
The school board will meet at 5 p.m. Monday for a work session and 6:30 p.m. for its 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 school 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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