Board Adopts Virtual Friday Proposal

Ken MClemore

HOPE – A plan to convert each Friday into a “virtual instruction day” to accommodate teacher workloads beyond the regular class day created by the bifurcated on-site/virtual system employed by the Hope Public Schools during the COVID-19 crisis was adopted by the Hope Board of Education here Monday night.

HPS Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart presented the recommendations of a multi-discipline task force which were based upon a survey of teachers in the district. The survey dealt with three inquiries, including time spent outside the regular school day involving virtual instruction and on-site instruction; the choice of a permanent early dismissal day each Wednesday; and, the choice of a “virtual instruction day” each Friday.

A survey of parents was also conducted regarding the two proposals.

Dr. Hart said the conclusions reached by the task force based upon survey data from teachers showed a significant impact by virtual instruction upon teachers’ time outside of the regular school day.

Sixty-five percent of teachers responding said they spent 1-2 hours daily beyond regular school hours preparing and working on virtual lessons. Some 22 percent reported spending up to four hours per day in the virtual classroom, and 13 percent said they spent more than four hours daily on virtual assignments.

A comparison by teachers of the time spent beyond the regular class day in both on-site and virtual classrooms showed all teachers responding they spend some time working on on-site classroom needs beyond the regular school day. Among those responding, 75 percent said they spent up to two hours daily, while 15 percent reported working in excess of four hours daily outside the regular class day tending to on-site classroom work.

Hart noted while the data does not reflect corroborative documentation, there is sufficient evidence from teachers and parents to warrant a proposal regarding online instruction.

“We think we can develop a system where students can get remediation if they need it and teachers have time to work with virtual students,” he said. “This is very similar to what other districts are doing.”

The “virtual Friday” proposal calls for daily staff hours to remain the same and call logs will be maintained for parents and students.

Board members were concerned about attendance by on-site students and Hart stressed the built-in flexibility of the concept. He said parents will be polled to determine how many on-site students will attend each Friday, but no on-site student will be penalized for not attending on Friday.

Hart said virtual class students who do not need remediation will simply be required to login to Lincoln Learning and show they are keeping to their regular schedule.

“Just like everything in 2020, we’re building this airplane in flight,” Hart said.

Other “virtual Friday” provisions include:

–Upload by teachers of a minimum of one week of lessons for the ensuing week of virtual studies.

–Creation of online lessons via video, Zoom, etc.

–Students can attend on-site if academic assistance needed.

–Students can attend on-site if childcare is not available.

–Buses will cover regular routes and times.

–Breakfast and lunch meals will be provided on-site and for online students.

–Students not attending on-site on Friday will not be counted absent.

–No new learning concepts will be introduced on Fridays.

–OT/PT/Speech and other special services will remain available on-site.

–Virtual days already on the academic calendar, including Oct. 30, Nov. 23-24, Feb. 15, and March 19, will not be changed.

The “virtual Friday” system will begin Nov. 6, and will continue through Dec. 18, at which time it will be evaluated, Hart said.

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