Blended model of instruction chosen by most families who had options

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By Randy Arrington

LURAY, Aug. 27Page County Public Schools recently surveyed families across the county to see which learning method they preferred for the upcoming school year in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results were presented at Monday night’s meeting of the Page County School Board by Eric Benson, the division’s Assistant Superintendent of Instruction, Innovation and Accountability.

Nearly 60 percent of the 3,155 surveys sent out showed families opting for remote learning for the 2020-21 school year in Page County. The families of 1,856 students (58.8 percent) chose to keep their children at home — while 1,207 (or 38.3 percent) chose the blended model of both distance learning and in-person classroom instruction. A total of 92 surveys (or 2.9 percent) were not returned.

However, this recent survey, which followed several previous ones, was not designed to help the school division decide what options to offer for the upcoming school year — and the overall results do not take into account those who had no option.

School administrators presented their “Return to Learn” plan for 2020-21 in mid-July and continued to tweak that plan for several weeks based on feedback from parents and teachers. A final plan calling for remote-only instruction at the high school level, and blended instruction — with a remote-only option — for grades PK-8 was unanimously approved by the school board earlier this month. 

The results of this survey simply showed what options parents have chosen for the upcoming school year. High school students had no option except remote-only instruction. All 1,133 surveys for high school students shown in Monday’s report were marked remote-only.

Despite the overall leaning toward distance learning in the local school division this year, the majority of parents in PK-8 chose the blended model of instruction being offered. 

  • Middle schools (grades 6-8) — 743 total surveys sent out, 436 for blended model (58.7%), 270 remote-only (36.3%), 37 not returned (5%);
  • Elementary schools (PK-5) — 1,279 total, 771 blended (60%), 453 remote-only (35%), 55 not returned (4%).

The blended model includes in-person classroom instruction two days a week and three days of remote learning at home. Students will be broken into Groups A and B in order to reduce class size and aid in social distancing during in-person instruction. One group will attend classes Monday and Tuesday, while the other group goes to school on Thursday and Friday. 

Students at the Page County Technical Center will also use this blended model, so they can receive in-person instruction in their chosen trade. A “deep cleaning” will take place at all schools on Wednesdays and on weekends between each A/B group’s attendance.

Below is a further breakdown of the learning survey results among elementary schools in Page County:

  • Luray Elementary — 405 surveys sent out, 240 for blended model (59%), 131 remote-only (32%), 34 not returned (8%);
  • Shenandoah Elementary — 325 surveys sent, 218 blended (67%), 91 remote-only (28%), 16 not returned (5%);
  • Springfield Elementary — all 209 surveys returned, 132 blended (63%), 77 remote-only (37%);
  • Stanley Elementary — 372 surveys sent, 181 blended (49%), 186 remote-only (50%), five not returned (1%).

In recent weeks, several school divisions across the state have backed off earlier plans for a blended model and have opted to mandate remote-only learning, at least for the first half of the year. A number of college campuses who welcomed students back to campus are also back pedaling and opting for students to learn remotely. 

Local school officials note that the same type of adjustment could happen in Page County if the COVID-19 pandemic worsens. They also note the changing nature of state and federal guidelines during this time as well.

“As guidance comes in, we are reacting,” Benson said.

And as if there weren’t enough ripple affects from the pandemic for school officials to worry about, now it seems that Page County Public Schools could fall short of their budgeted school enrollment for 2020-21, which could in turn reduce state funding. 

Currently, Page Schools have an anticipated Sept. 10 enrollment of 3,063. However, the school system’s current budget is based on a projected enrollment of 3,214. State funding — which supports about two-thirds of the local school budget — is, in large part, tied directly to enrollment figures.

“We know we’ve lost some students at the elementary level to other options,” Benson said to the school board on Monday night. He noted some families had turned to home schooling or changed school districts.

Benson said that school officials are making every effort — including home visits — to contact others and lower the gap of 151 students from the budgeted enrollment.

“We were at 233 earlier last week, and now we have it down to 151,” Benson added.

Among the many issues and challenges facing students, teachers and administration this school year — such as daily temperature checks and health forms needed before entering school buildings, as well as special instruction such as driver’s education — Benson offered this advice: “I have told everyone we need to be able to pivot.”

School board members also urged families to be flexible and share in the responsibility.

“Just remember, parents have to do their part,” District 5 school board member and vice chair Jackie Sullivan-Smoot said on Monday night. “Keep in touch, pay attention; we are all together on this.”

For a complete list of the survey results CLICK HERE.

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Nutritional Services would like for you to complete a short survey regarding school meals for students. You can complete the survey at: https://forms.gle/Ztrwa2qM8AN35GzV7

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To Parents and Students of Luray High School and Page County High School:

Student devices (Chromebooks) will be distributed during high school orientation. Each student will need to either arrive that day with the form (see link below) printed and signed by a parent/guardian OR have both individuals (parent/guardian & student) present that day in order to be issued a device.

https://5il.co/k0ic –PCPS Mobile Device Agreement

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