ORCSD School Board 3/24/2021 Summary

ORCSD School Board 3/24/2021 Summary
Posted on 03/26/2021
Good Day Families, Staff and Students,

I hope this letter finds you all well.

Wednesday, March 24 was a great day for the Oyster River Cooperative School District and the Barrington School System as over 750 faculty, staff, recreation staff and licensed child-care providers were given their first COVID vaccine.

Given that so many of our faculty and staff will be fully vaccinated by April 19, it provided an opportunity to open up a discussion between the ORCSD Board and the Teachers’ Guild regarding an ‘All-In’ model for opening school May 3, 2021. Please understand, the School Board has made no decision to open school May 3, they have entered into a discussion phase over the possibility.

The Board will meet again next Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in a workshop format in the ORHS Auditorium. The Board will live stream this workshop beginning at 7 PM.

At the March 24 workshop I presented the following goals that I feel are important for opening school to an All-In model beginning May 3.
  1. SEL/Mental Health. Many parents and staff have discussed the mental health needs of students who have been isolated from their peers and from school, many for over a year. Having the students in school will provide staff access to the students to assess and begin interventions as needed.
  2. Socialization. Children have been isolated from their peers at school. Although athletics and clubs opened at the middle and high schools, ‘normal’ interactions and ‘play’ have been impacted significantly. It is important to note that social distancing and health protocols will still be in place, so school will still not be the same as pre-COVID times but children will be provided more opportunity to socialize than has been offered throughout the pandemic.
  3. Academic Assessment. There are concerns regarding the academic progress of our students. Having the children in session will allow teachers to use formal (STAR) and informal assessments (Formative in-class) to determine how our students are doing. This will allow the staff to plan more effectively for the fall. This needs to be done for those doing well, those struggling (MTSS) and for those identified.
  4. More time to teach. We lost valuable teaching time with our students. We cannot ‘cram’ in or accelerate learning in six weeks, nor should we. We can reinforce prior learning and solidify it as well as introduce new concepts more thoroughly. It will take far more time and careful planning to make-up for lost learning but increased instructional time over the final weeks of school will benefit all students.
  5. Acclimatization. Students need to relearn school. As an example, we only have one grade at the high school that has experienced a traditional full school year. Many families, due to legitimate COVID concerns, have chosen a remote only model since March 2020. School is more than a classroom or a building, it is a community. Students have had many options for ‘school’ over the past year. We need to begin transitioning students back into school to increase their comfort and confidence.
  6. Executive Order. Preparation should the Governor issue another Executive order mandating an all-in model. We were not prepared at the middle school level for the Executive Order that was issued, and it really hurt our remote students, who lost 2-3 days contact time with our teachers.
The district put together a non-binding informal interest survey asking parents of their interest in an ‘All-In’ model. As has been the case throughout this school year, parents were quick to respond. The results are noted below.

SCHOOLS % RETURN RATE % ALL-IN % REMOTE
 Moharimet  93%  80%  20%
 Mast Way  94%  88.5%  11.5%
 ORMS  92%  89%  11%
 ORHS  78%  77%  23%

The meeting ended with Chair Williams requesting the process be accelerated. He felt that April 21 was too late to make a decision for parents and staff. He asked that the administration and teachers be prepared to present a model that begins to make recommendations at the meeting on March 31st, in order to prepare for a Board decision, perhaps as soon as April 7th. The Board agreed to the additional workshop and to the accelerated timeline.

The Board will meet again next Wednesday, March 31, 2021, in a workshop format, at 7:00 PM. The meeting will be live-streamed.

I wish you all the best!

Sincerely,

Dr, Jim Morse
Superintendent, ORCSD