Delta school board updates district policies with COVID-19 impacts on learning, student absences

A community member takes a photo as Delta School District alumni and students share their experiences with racial injustice during public comment at the July 16 board meeting.

By Lauren Brant

Staff report

As Delta County School District staff plans on students returning to school for in-person learning, five days a week this August, the board of education updated two district policies to reflect changes to learning caused by the novel coronavirus.

Within the board policy outlining the school year, school calendar and instruction time, the board adopted language to encompass distance learning. The policy states, “The board defines ‘actively engaged in the educational process’ as time when students are working toward achieving educational objectives under the supervision of a licensed teacher.”

Instruction time includes:

· classroom instruction time

· individual student work time while at school, including study hall and library research

· school-related field trips

· independent study insofar as such study is allowed under district policy

· assemblies

· passing periods between classes

For the 2020-21 academic year, such educational process also includes:

· instruction delivered electronically

· logging into online platforms

· other types of independent, remote work time

Time students spend before and after school waiting for classes and for the bus, lunch time, recess time and teacher preparation time are not included within the educational process.

Understanding that the coronavirus may necessitate distance learning during the school year, the board policy reflects the role of a licensed teacher to facilitate learning. The policy states how supervision by a licensed teacher does not require the teacher to be in the student’s physical presence, but focuses on the teacher exercising direction and control over the student’s activities.

The board also updated the policy related to student absences and excuses.

If a student is diagnosed with the coronavirus, the district would recognize that as an exempted absence. Once students recover, similar to when a student has the flu, they will be expected to complete makeup coursework. However, if students are in self-quarantine because a family member has it and they do not have COVID-19, students are still expected to complete coursework.

Dan Burke, board member and vice president, acknowledged how there is always a concern about student absences, which Superintendent Caryn Gibson said will be more challenging this year.

“This year is going to be even more challenging because we do not want students to come to school when they’re sick,” she said. “And that’s part of the reason for updating this policy at this time.”

Gibson said the board needs to look at staff policies that are on the docket to be reviewed.

The district will also implement health department guidance about the length students need to be out of school if they have COVID-19.

The district’s current plan is for students in grades kindergarten through 12th grades to return for another school year beginning Wednesday, Aug. 19. Results from the district’s recent parent survey indicated that 90% of families would prefer a return to in-person learning this fall. The district will also offer an online option as an alternative for families who prefer an online learning model.

Lauren Brant is a staff writer and digital content coordinator for the Delta County Independent.

Lauren Brant is a staff writer and digital content coordinator for the Delta County Independent.

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