Lawrence superintendent proposes return to fully in-person learning next month

photo by: Meeting screenshot/Lawrence school board

Superintendent Anthony Lewis' on Monday proposed a plan for students to return to in-person learning five days a week starting next month.

The Lawrence school district is working on a plan to bring students back to in-person learning five days a week by next month.

Superintendent Anthony Lewis said Monday during a school board meeting that he is proposing that kindergarten through fifth grade students return to a full week of school on March 15 and students in sixth grade and up return on March 29.

The school board was not required to vote on the proposal for it to move ahead. Board President Kelly Jones said the board gave Lewis authority over the matter on Dec. 14 when it approved its own gating criteria.

Lewis made the announcement after the board heard a report on how the school district’s students have been falling behind academically during the pandemic.

Background:

School district report shows more students getting Ds and Fs amid pandemic

Zach Conrad, the district’s director of research and evaluation, reported to the board that students at every grade level had been receiving more D and F grades so far this year than in previous years. He also said the district’s data showed students in kindergarten through third grade were performing worse in reading assessments than in previous years.

While answering questions about that data, Lewis also told the board the details about his plan. He said the change would apply only to students who are currently learning through the district’s hybrid learning model. Those who chose to use fully remote learning this school year would continue attending class remotely. He also said the district would have time to install new air filters in school buildings and review more changes for mitigation strategies, among other things.

Board member Erica Hill said she appreciated Lewis’ plan, but she said she thought younger students would need to return earlier than he was proposing. But Lewis said the district had been allowing some students to attend school four days a week if they had been identified as “at-risk,” and that the district would continue expanding that program until the in-person learning began.

One reason the district feels comfortable working toward in-person learning is the fact that faculty and staff are receiving vaccines for COVID-19. Lewis said 259 employees of the district have received the vaccine so far.

Lewis also announced a four-phase vaccination plan for the rest of the faculty and staff, which was formed at the request of Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health. He said the first phase, which is currently active, includes staff who work closely with students, such as special education teachers, paraeducators, and workers such as cafeteria staff and bus drivers. Lewis said the district has been allotted about 200 doses of the vaccine this week for first-phase workers.

The second phase includes in-person and hybrid teachers, with elementary teachers receiving priority. The third phase is the district’s hourly staff working on site, and the fourth phase is any staff working remotely.

Additionally, in light of students struggling academically, Lewis said the school district is exploring ways to help them catch up.

He said the district is working on a “summer learning” program, which would be separate from the district’s standard summer school programming. It would be open to all students and would help them catch up on academics before moving on to the next grade in the fall. He said that the program could be in place for multiple years.

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