Moscow public schools are inching toward finalizing plans for opening in the fall, but Superintendent Greg Bailey said in a Wednesday teleconference with parents and district stakeholders that plans for just how instruction will be delivered are still being refined.
Following recommendations from a similar meeting held earlier this month, Bailey said the district assembled 10 subcommittees guided by an oversight committee to direct the reopening process. The committees cover sectors of district business including technology, communication and special programs among others. Representatives from several of those committees delivered updates on their work Wednesday to the more than 100 in virtual attendance.
Bailey said the subcommittee addressing attendance, calendar and schedules is considering ways to deliver instruction in the fall including fully remote and fully online models, as well as a hybridization of the two.
“This hybrid option, it seems like it’s going to be the one that we’re going to need to go with given our current COVID conditions in Idaho and so we want the district to be able to choose a configuration and move forward,” Moscow Middle School Assistant Principal Teri Summers said. Summers sits on the attendance, calendar and schedules subcommittee. “We went through a variety of options, discussed pros and cons, and then made a recommendation to the oversight committee.”
There are a number of options for how Moscow schools could execute a hybrid instructional format, but nearly all strategies include arrangements where cohorts of students attend school in person two days a week with three days of remote instruction.
When asked when the district will have a better idea of how it plans to deliver instruction at the elementary and secondary levels, Bailey said he will try to get the Moscow School Board to hold a special session, with hopes of having these answers by Tuesday evening.
He also said he was considering the possibility of pushing the district’s Sept. 2 first day of school two weeks to Sept. 14. He said this will give the district time to assess the effect the return of University of Idaho students will have on local disease rates.
Bailey was asked Wednesday how the district will decide when the severity of local disease rates would merit relaxing or tightening measures that are meant to help control the local spread of COVID-19. Bailey said the district is working with local health authorities and medical professionals to ascertain what would be most appropriate.
“State and local public health aren’t really getting specific into metrics for green, yellow, red or category 1, 2, 3 so we’re working under the assumption with rising numbers we’re category 2,” said Summer Day, parent and Pediatric Medical Director for Gritman Medical Center who sits on the district’s health and safety subcommittee. “But we’ll hopefully get some good metrics, based on local numbers that would put us into level green or one that would allow us to move back to full in-person learning, or they would have us move into ‘Oh no, we have to all go virtual online.’”
Bailey said conditions surrounding COVID-19 change rapidly but subcommittee members and district officials will continue to work up to the first day of school — and likely through the school year — to fine-tune plans. He said it is his hope that students will be able to return to in-person classes soon and safely but the district’s foremost concern is the health and safety of its students and employees.
“We would love to have all kids in our school, all the staff ready to go — that would make our lives a lot better, it’s what we work for is to have those kids in front of us,” Bailey said. “But we’re looking at a situation that is beyond our ability to control, at this point, and we’re having to deal with this scenario until it’s over and we’re trying to find the best solution we can.”
Bailey said he will host another chat with the superintendent, with updates for parents, faculty and staff, in two weeks. The start of Wednesday’s teleconference was delayed by about 30 minutes as district officials worked to tweak Zoom settings to allow more people to participate.
Scott Jackson can be reached by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.