PITTSBURG, Kan. — Pittsburg Community Schools Board of Education held an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss changes to their back-to-school plan as the first “real” semester since the pandemic hit comes to a close.
“Since we have been in school, we have learned a lot of lessons,” Superintendent Richard Proffitt said.
The changes centered around students that elect to do virtual learning instead of in-person. According to Proffitt, for the fall 2020 semester, USD 250’s administration basically let anyone who wanted to, be a virtual learner.
“When we went into this year, we just allowed pretty much anybody to say, ‘hey I want to go remote,’” Proffitt said. “When we look at this revised plan the remote learning is going to be looked at differently.”
Students who want to be remote learners will have to apply and if they meet certain criteria, they will be allowed to be remote.
“The school district has an obligation to make sure that academic progress is being made,” Proffitt said. “And the district also has the obligation of placing those kids in an environment where they believe they are going to be the most successful.”
The administration will be considering a student’s attendance and grades from the fall 2020 semester among a few other factors when determining whether a student will be allowed to be a remote learner.
“If a student and/or family applies that application will be reviewed and if that student has shown some positive progress, and they’ve shown that they can handle remote learning, then that remote status will be granted,” Proffitt said. “The other students who really need that extra care and to be in-seat will be designated as an on-site learner because we have that obligation of making sure we are educating those kids.”
The board has discussed at previous meetings the issues facing teachers and staff in regards to remote learners, and the board has been looking for solutions for months. The major concern the district has is the number of students who are remote that have completely checked out and have not engaged at all since August.
“We had a number of students at the different levels, and probably more at the secondary buildings than any other that were just not engaging and that was a huge concern,” Proffit said.
According to Assistant Superintendent Brad Hanson, roughly 15 percent of remote students have not been participating or engaging in school at all this semester.
Profitt said he hopes this change will address the issue, and get kids and families reinvested in education.
“We have an obligation,” he said.
The board agreed with the changes and passed the plan unanimously 7-0.
“We need some accountability for these remote learners that are not engaging,” Board Member Jason Grotheer said. “We need to be able to go back to these people and say ‘listen this just not working out. It's not good for our system. It's not good for you as a person. It's not good for you as a future graduate.’”
Applications for remote learning next semester will go out on Monday, Nov. 23 and will close Dec. 11. Proffitt said administrators will release their decision by Dec. 18, the last day of the semester.
“If we are going to get this going, we need to give our families plenty of time to apply,” Proffitt said. “And we need plenty of time for us to respond.”
Proffitt said he recognizes people may be upset by this change, but highlighted that no student with a verifiable underlying health condition will be forced to be in-person, and those students will be automatically granted remote learning privileges.
“We are not going to put those students into harm's way,” he said.
But even with those concerns, Proffitt said that the district has continued to do a great job at eliminating community spread within the schools, and even Crawford County Public Health Officer Dr. Tim Stebbins agrees.
"We can tell you we still think that we're safe in the K-12 schools,” Stebbins said at the County Commission meeting on Friday. “We've talked with the administrators as recently as yesterday. The isolation and quarantine cases still are not the main concern in that we're not concerned about transmission within the schools. Our concern is the logistics of managing the school overall and the illness' effects on the schools in that respect."