Communication on everyone’s part is the most important piece to remote learning, administrators and Wiscasset school committee members said April 14 in the committee’s Zoom debut. The panel unanimously passed a remote learning plan officials said will get school days to count with the state. And participants praised staff and families’ efforts and voiced concern for all, amid the changes the pandemic has brought.
Wiscasset Middle High School Principal Charles Lomonte said some students are having anxiety and depression so high, “Learning is not their highest – learning is not there ... But I’m so proud of our staff and how they’ve reached out individually to each one of these students.” He is confident in what staff are doing, including when they seek clarification, because everything is new, he added.
“We’re building the plane as we fly it,” Lomonte said.
Member Desiree Bailey said some families want less work than they are getting, some more, and “a lot of people are kind of wound up” about requirements differing among teachers within a grade, at both schools. She has been suggesting those parents reach out to teachers. That is good advice, Lomonte said. When parents have reached out, teachers have been “really responsive (and) things got better.”
According to participants, the pandemic has revealed some families’ phone numbers or email addresses were out of date; one parent hadn’t received the remote learning information or anything else this year, Bailey said.
Member Michelle Blagdon said, “We’ve got to make sure that parents realize ... it’s very important to always keep things updated.”
Fellow member Indriani Demers asked if staff could be surveyed to find how they are feeling physically, mentally and emotionally.
“We could, but what would you want to do with the results,” Superintendent of Schools Terry Wood responded. “I mean, I think everyone’s overwhelmed ... I think our teachers are trying to do too much” and not giving themselves credit for what they are doing, she said.
The learning plan calls for internet-based or hard copy assignments or other strategies. The middle high school is mainly using the internet; the elementary school, hard copies, Wood said. The work and number of hours a day depend on grade level; grading for elementary is still being worked out; middle high’s regular grading system will continue for the third quarter; and fourth quarter will be pass/incomplete and will not impact grade point averages, Wood said. “Our hope is that it will take some of the undue stress off our students.”
Blagdon asked, if conditions with the virus improve and parents return to work, might students return to the schools, even for the last couple of weeks, “or is that not an option at all?”
“Some of these parents, I don’t know how they’re going to work that ... We’re going to probably have a lot of kids home alone,” Blagdon said.
Wood said that is why the state recommended remote learning the rest of the school year when it did: So families would have time to plan. If the state puts the decision back in local hands, she would do a survey and “absolutely” have the committee decide, Wood said.
The committee meets next at 6 p.m. May 12, likely on Zoom again, officials said. Wood said later, a workshop will be set soon to present a first budget draft to the committee.