The most valuable resource of all – time – emerged as the prime concern among teachers and staff members at a meeting Thursday to get feedback about Durango School District 9-R’s plan to deal with COVID-19 issues when school resumes Aug. 25.
More specifically, it was the shortage of time that emerged as a theme of concern among the 40 teachers and staff members who attended the meeting in the Administration Building and 27 employees who joined online on Zoom.
Beth Coblentz, a teacher at Needham Elementary, said the district has been putting in a new computer system to serve as its learning management system.
The learning management system provides information to teachers about class management and is the online hub where students can get their daily assignments and where parents can follow their children’s learning progress and interact with their teachers.
Teachers, Coblentz said, are being asked to commit to teaching one of three different learning models before the district has defined the criteria and nature of the work involved in the three different models.
Next year, 9-R will offer traditional in-person classes at schools, remote learning mainly online and a hybrid model with some in-person learning and some remote learning.
“We’ll have five staff days (to prepare before students’ first day of school). We’re doing things at such speed, I don’t think it’s providing the time for us to do anything that will be high quality. I’m concerned we’re setting ourselves up for failure,” Coblentz said.
Dylan Connell, executive director of curriculum assessment, admitted COVID-19 has put the district in a time crunch. He said it would be his job to create learning support structures that are the most effective and efficient in assisting teachers in learning the new computer system, called “itslearning.”
In providing support for teachers to learn the new software, Connell said, his charge would be to create support and teaching structures that instead of putting teachers “through the grinder” would create an environment where they view the new software “as the coolest learning tool” they have worked with.
Coblentz noted with one day out of five staff days assigned to practice on the new computer system and three other days assigned to other training sessions, teachers would have only two days to prepare their classrooms and learn new procedures demanded to meet the novel coronavirus – procedures such as maintaining a clean classroom and providing students with outdoor class sessions.
Teri Kopack, a Durango High School teacher and lead negotiator with the Durango Education Association, echoed Coblentz, saying teachers should know the full details of jobs they will be expected to perform in offering instruction in the three different learning models before they are required to declare which model they would sign up for.
“It’s unfair to teachers to state which model they will commit to before they know the full details of the job and what it will entail,” she said.
The district has surveyed teachers about their intent to return for fall.
Andy Burns, deputy superintendent, said so far, 349 teachers have returned the survey. According to results, 62% said they were ready to return for the school year, 35% said they supported returning for the school year but have questions about the plan to return, 2% wanted to consult with a doctor, and 1% were looking for other employment opportunities.
Tom Curmano, a Park Elementary teacher, suggested the possibility of delaying the start of school by seven days to provide teachers, staff members and parents more time to cope with the changes required to teach during a viral pandemic.
“The theme I’m hearing here is this is moving too fast to get done with quality. Rolling back (the start of school) seems to make sense to allow us to go back with more confidence,” he said.
9-R School Board President Shere Byrd said board members are looking at holding a special meeting Tuesday to examine issues related to the district’s plan to return to school, including staff members’ concerns and feedback about the plan.