After receiving almost 2,000 responses from a recent survey asking for parents’ input, Walla Walla School District will aim to use a morning/afternoon schedule for students when schools open this fall.
Under the plan, half of the district’s students will attend in-person instruction in the mornings and participate in distance learning in the afternoons. The other half will do the opposite.
Reducing the number of students in classrooms at a given time is necessary because new social-distancing regulations will reduce the capacity of most schools by about half.
Just over 55% of the parents surveyed preferred this over a plan that would have seen students attend school every other day for full days.
Superintendent Wade Smith said he also hosted an online focus group of some high school students. He said every one of the students in that group preferred the a.m./p.m. schedule.
Smith said this option makes sense because it will allow students to connect with their teachers everyday.
“I think it boils down to the consistency for kids and consistency for families,” Smith said. “This schedule allows for that consistency. Every single day kids are coming to school. Every single day kids meet with teachers. Every single day kids are interacting with their peers. That concern was powerful to hear, especially from the high school students.”
Smith said the survey results match closely with a staff survey the school recently administered.
Before morning or afternoon groups are assigned to students, Smith said, staff will seek input from parents. The district will also make sure siblings are kept on the the same schedule.
One concern parents expressed in the survey, Smith said, was that both options included having distance learning on Fridays. Because of this concern, Smith said, the focus will now be on implementing a plan that uses the morning/afternoon schedule Monday through Friday instead.
“We are currently figuring out how to make this work,” Smith said.
If this plan is put into action, students will be in school for half the of the day, five days a week. It will still require online learning the other half of the day.
To make this work, Smith said, every student in grades 6-12 is being issued a Chromebook. Any student without internet access is also being issued a mobile hot spot to make it possible to complete school work remotely.
In addition, the district is taking steps to make sure all students in grades K-5 have access to computers at home. While these students are not being asked to carry a Chromebook to and from class everyday, Smith said that if a student doesn’t have home computer access, a Chromebook — and a mobile hot spot, if necessary — will be issued.
This same arrangement will help students who do not return to school due to health concerns. The district is launching a fully online schooling option for these students.
“We are going to offer a robust online learning experience for grades K-12,” Smith said. “From survey results, we anticipate this being used by somewhere around 300 students.”
Smith said a website for the online program will be launched by next week.