Rockridge plans return to five-day “in school” learning

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record

Cathy Decker/Correspondent

EDGINGTON -- The Rockridge board of education agreed to return to a more regular school schedule, rather than its current hybrid model at Tuesday’s regular school board meeting Oct. 13. A five-days-a week in-school schedule at all buildings will begin Monday, Nov. 9, the board decided after a more than three-hour meeting, dismissal time will remain at 1:40 p.m.

The meeting had a maximum 50-person capacity in the high school’s south gymnasium, with an invitation to attend and listen to the meeting on YouTube. Visually, the YouTube site showed only four of the school board members, who were masked, as were all others attending in the gymnasium. Often the opinions were difficult to hear. The school’s web site has links to the board’s YouTube meeting.

Subjects addressed in the meeting ranged from opinions on social distancing to student/staff health and welfare to availability of substitute teachers. COVID-19 has spooked a number of parents, who would prefer keeping their children home doing remote learning. One thing noted on going full-time back to school was that in Illinois, the remote learning option must remain as an option until after the COVID-10 pandemic has ceased to be a problem.

The district did extensive polling of parents, students and staff regarding stress, transportation needs, learning style preferences (remote, full-time-in-school or a hybrid/blended model), etc. In the end the administration’s recommendation was to continue using the hybrid model currently being used.

A lot of sharing went on during the nearly three-hour session before the board went into closed session.

One parent talked of the struggle she had with having two teenage boys staying home (remote learning). She said she wondered “what they do with their days home” and speculated that they “wake up for attendance and then go back to bed.”

Another woman talked about how she teaches on line and has done it for many years. “They’re not getting what they would get from the classroom,” she said. “My child is not getting the education he should be getting,” was another statement made.

During the lengthy discussion on “return to school survey results” Superintendent Miller said that of the many opinions gathered, there was “no perfect solution -- whatever you feel is correct,” he added. “There are so many ways to go with this.”

In the first quarter, Miller said there was an 86 percent response rate of 175 families with students that were fully remote or homeschooled. They were asked “If Hybrid continues, would you stay fully remote?”  Fifty eight students (38.4 percent) would return to hybrid, with 93 students (61.6 percent) staying fully remote.

A forced choice survey asked whether students would return to a five-days-a-week schedule, or stay fully remote. This survey had a 76 percent response rate from all possible students, with 101 students (13.5 percent) opting for fully remote learning and 647 students (86.5 percent) choosing in person learning.

A third survey gave three options for school learning with a 63 percent response rate. Results were: In person five days: 412 students (64.2 percent); Hybrid learner: 54 students (24 percent) and Full remote: 76 students (11.8 percent). Miller said, “477 students we don’t know what they would do.”

Staff were also surveyed about whether they would be able to set up their classroom (or area) to honor social distancing if the district returned to at least 80 percent in-school learning. With 95 responses from teachers, paraprofessionals, secretaries and cafeteria workers, 31.6 percent said “yes,” 46.3 percent said “no” and 22.1 percent said “not applicable.”

The staff survey also favored continuing the hybrid model during the second semester by 76.8 percent.

The staff also was asked whether they preferred the 1:40 p.m. dismissal time, or would want to return to the pre-COVID end of school day dismissal, with 93.7 percent preferring the 1:40 p.m. dismissal.

Bus drivers and teacher substitutes were also polled about whether they would continue doing their jobs if returning to full-time student attendance. Staff also voiced their opinions on stress levels and whether they had contemplated quitting teaching.

Miller said there were 16 -17 substitute teachers polled, with 13 subs responding -- 100 percent said they would return to school if the Hybrid model continued, but if school moved to a full, five-day week, seven substitutes said they would not return. “That was alarming for junior high teachers,” said Miller. “And would really limit our elementary schools.”

The board also discussed applying tuition waivers for students enrolled at Rockridge but living outside the district. This would be an option available for students of full-time staff living outside the district. According to a staff survey of possible students, one would come from K-2nd grade, one from 3rd - 5th grade, four from 6th - 8th grade and two from 9th - 12th grades. In addition, another student would begin in the fall of 2025. The board agreed to table the matter until next year.

In other business the board approved:

* Posting the 2019-2020 compensation report on the website;

* Paying either $500 or $1,000 to each of the 10 Oda B. Shaw Scholarship recipients;

* Hiring Dana DeKeyrel as volunteer softball coach and Amanda Adams as junior high yearbook advisor for the 2020-2021 school year.

* A $16,200 bid from Goetz Concrete Construction Corp. for replacement of the long jump pits.