During the Dec. 1, 2020 Hernando County School Board workshop, Executive Director of Student Support Programs Lisa Cropley presented a Return to School plan for the second semester of the 2020-21 school year. Cropley began the address at the Hernando County School District Workshop on December 1, 2020
A new executive order from 11/30/2020 was discussed, primarily focusing on distance learning procedures and the tracking of students who are not successful in the e-learning environment, and how to solve the issues with distance learning.
Cropley reported meeting “as a task force a couple of times for several hours,” discussing COVID-specific topics such as transportation, cafeteria procedures, disinfection and cleaning.
While more students are returning to campus each week, the topics of course academics, truancy and attendance, hospital and homebound instruction, Hernando E-School and COVID data remain. At the end of October, about 52% of students returned for face-to-face instruction. 79% were reported for November 19, 2020.
Regarding COVID, Cropley said, “I believe Hernando County is doing relatively well.” As of November 29, 2020 84 students and 43 staff tested positive for COVID. Cropley reported that According to the dashboard on the Department of Health, Hernando has had one percent of total cases of age 15 to 24 that have been hospitalized and zero deaths.
Human resource data shows that COVID has not contributed to an exodus by educators when compared to the same time in 2019.
When schools closed in the beginning of the year, students were enrolled in Hernando E-School to participate in distance learning. This option usually has specific requirements for admission, which were waived to allow all students to enroll.
The number of students enrolled in Hernando E-School has been declining as some students are not performing well, and educators and administrators have been working with students and parents to transition back into brick and mortar schools.
Cropley said, “Probably the most overall important in driving our work is the number of our digital home learners that are receiving a D or an F in one or more of their courses. 20% of those students are still in a digital learning environment.”
Another consideration is how schools are funded for distance learning. For the first semester of 2020, when schools closed due to COVID, full funding is expected from the state. In the second semester, beginning in 2021, the number of distance learners are counted differently from those who physically attend brick and mortar schools. The shift in more distance learning as opposed to traditional classroom attendance could potentially result in the reduction of school funding.
Board Member Gus Guadagnino asked if particular courses could be more difficult to attend via distance learning. Cropley stated that attendance in general is really the main contributing factor for failure in the digital environment.
“There are a lot of successful digital home learners and it really depends on whether or not you’re in attendance and that’s a huge contributing factor. We’re getting feedback that [students] are not logging on at all or they’re logging on and logging right off.”
Educators and Administrators had visited over two hundred homes just in the month of October trying to track down students.
If a student is not performing they’re not attending there’s a whole kind of chain of command if you will that is followed as far as communicating with the families and ultimately ends up in the administrator’s lab who then has the conversations with parents.
By the end of October educators and administrators visited over two hundred homes trying to track down students. The purpose of the home visits were to try to get students to basically improve their academic performance, as well as speak with parents. During this time, the district checked out 250 devices when access to the digital environment was found to be lacking. Administrators are currently tracking whether or not that made a difference in those students’ performance.
The original executive order basically instructed the district to transition a student to another learning method should they not be succeeding with distance learning. So far, the district has been doing that. Ultimately, the order does allow for the parent to not take advantage of the opportunity to change their learning options. Cropley stressed effective communication with parents to overcome these challenges.
New language will be added to Hernando E-School student agreement for the second half of the school year. This language includes: “Addending live lessons for all scheduled classes — with monitor on,” “Be on time and ready to learn,” “Completing assignments on time,” and “Follow proper digital etiquette.”
To continue in Hernando E-School, a minimum GPA will be required and students must have already received the required credits they need for their grade level. The district will not provide devices if a student chooses this option.
Students who are homebound because of a specific medical requirement qualify for Hospital Homebound Instruction, which is a separate option. The student must be under the care of a doctor who fills out that paperwork certifying that the child medically cannot leave the house.
Also discussed, but not in detail is a state grant of $88,000 for the district to hire a data scientist to serve as a liaison between the school district and the state DOE (Department of Education) to assist with the transmission of progress monitoring data during this time of COVID. The grant appears to be limited to one year. The school board is expected to follow up with this in the future.