Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Hurley School to end at-home learning next semester


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Hurley — A survey in which 90% of teachers say there are insurmountable challenges with combining in-school and at-home learning prompted the Hurley K-12 School Board to unanimously approve ending the virtual option at the end of the semester.

In about six weeks, all Hurley K-12 students will start the second quarter attending in-person. The only exception are the students who signed up for the third-party Odyssey online curriculum program that does not require a live video feed with classes.

School administrator Kevin Genisot said the school’s back to school document was designed to deal with constant and sudden changing conditions. At this point, four weeks into the school year enough information and feedback has resulted in a need for the board to determine if the recommended changes are needed.

Around 90% of staff agree that the students should be all either in-class when the pandemic allows, or to all be at home doing virtual learning when the health threat demands, he said.

Monica Kolpin, a fourth-grade teacher, spoke in support of Genisot’s recommendation in the public comment period. She said there are “major issues” with combining live-streaming of classroom learning for at-home learners.

She said there is additional work for the teachers and the end result is a less than optimal learning experience for both in-class and at-home learners. The primary concern is with technical issues, not in the school, but at home where students have problems with online connections or failing devices.

“We have a lot of technology issues day-to-day,” Kolpin said.

In his written report, Steve Lombardo, pre-kindergarten to fifth-grade principal and school district athletic director, said there are 27 elementary students who are learning virtually and so far it has been successful. There were unexpected challenges and, with patience, the staff are continually learning and adapting as they go.

“With any change comes growing pains,” Lombardo said. “It has been a lot of work for our teachers but the feedback I have been hearing from parents has been overwhelmingly positive and they are certainly appreciative for this option.”

Lombardo said the elementary students have exceeded expectations in wearing face coverings. With support from parents and a few reminders from staff the students wear the masks correctly during the appropriate times, he said.

“Despite all of these changes, the students have remained extremely positive and are certainly excited to be learning back in the building,” Lombardo said.

Grade 6-12 Principal Melissa Oja, said in her written report there were currently 23 virtual students and 20 more who are in the separate Odysseyware online program. She said new programs require staff and students to continually adapt and she maintains communication with students and parents in the programs.

Five days of the August in-service were devoted to using technology for in-person and virtual students.

“I have made multiple visits to the classrooms, and our staff is doing an incredible job with our in-person and virtual students,” Oja said.

The staff and students have also remained engaged while wearing face coverings and following social distancing procedures, she said.

In the school administrator’s report, Genisot said the school has not had a positive COVID-19 case yet this semester but that he felt it was probably a matter of time before that happens.

“We have had parents choose to keep their children out of school for 10 days or until tested as a precautionary measure,” he said in his written report to the board. “Although it is impossible to screen with 100% accuracy, the steps we are taking, like the wearing of face coverings all day should help us mitigate risks.”

The board denied a change to board seating and voting procedure that would have had members rotating seats and the order in which names are called for votes.

“No one should be the first or the last name called every time,” said Kathy Saari, board clerk, who voted for the change along with Kathy Levra, board treasurer.

Leslie Kolesar, school board president, said these types of rules are more appropriate for large organizations, where a parliamentarian is present to ensure every detail is followed. The Hurley School Board uses Roberts Rules of Order as a guide but must deviate from them at times as small meetings require, she said.

Kolesar voted against the change along with Andy Laurin, vice president, and Joseph Simonich. She said the normal library meeting setting with a U-shaped table prevents one seat from appearing dominant and that the pandemic meetings in the commons keeps people spaced so far apart that microphones are required.

The board 4-1 approved the school’s athletic program’s revised practice and games schedule for football, volleyball and cross country for the 2020-21 school year. Board member Kathy Saari voted against.

As the athletic director, Lombardo said the guidelines are consistent with the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, the Indianhead Conference, and the Lakeland Conference.

In other business, the board discussed the need to establish a special Fund 46 that would divert a portion of the general fund balance, specifically the “other” fund, to a designated fund for future expenses. The item will be included in the school boards 10 year plan discussion in November.

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