Clearfield Area School Board on Monday heard from parents who want students to go back to school for full-time in-person learning.
Currently the school is utilizing a hybrid system where the student body has been split into two groups — A and B — and each group goes to school every other day on alternating days to facilitate social distancing rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many of us are really concerned about education this year,” Lori Kane said.
The school board held its meeting via “Zoom” internet video teleconferencing software due to hazardous weather. The Progress was not able obtain the names of all of the parents who addressed the board.
Most of the concern appeared to be with parents of elementary school students. Not all of the parents who participated in the meeting stated which grade their children are in, but those who did said their children were in elementary school and none of the parents indicated their children were in the junior/senior high school.
Kane said group A students are three or four days ahead than the group B students because of snow days falling on group B school days. She said her daughter is in group A, but because group B is so far behind now, there are some days her daughter will go to school and come home and say they had free periods because the school is trying to get the group B students caught up.
Kane asked if the school was going to try to allow group B to go to school Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays for the next month to get them caught up.
Kane and several other parents also said the lack of in-person instruction is hurting the mental and emotional health of students and the community.
“Not only are the kids suffering, families are suffering,” Kane said.
Several of the parents said the quality of the education their children receive suffers when they are at home or on virtual days. Several parents said their children will often come home from school with little or no work to do on the off day.
Derek Walker agreed and said his elementary aged children are getting no education on the off days.
“We have wonderful teachers, but we are getting absolutely nothing on the off days,” Walker said.
Walker asked how the school district could get 180 school days in when they are out of school so much. However, he said when children are in school, they are getting more one-on-one time with the teachers because the classes are smaller.
Superintendent Terry Struble said many of the younger elementary aged students have struggled with the online learning so the teachers have been focusing more on the children when they are in school, in contrast to the secondary school students where teachers can give them more work to do remotely on the off days.
Several parents asked how other school districts in the area have school every day. Struble said school districts have different situations. He said some school districts might have empty classrooms they could utilize for social distancing or some school districts could have had a higher percentage of their students choose cyber school during the pandemic, giving them more room for the students who remain in the classrooms.
Struble thanked the parents for their feedback and said he would be meeting with the school principals on Tuesday to review what their expectations are and what they are doing, including getting a firm accounting on the A and B school days what can be done to get the group B students caught up in their classwork.
School board members appear to be split on a decision.
Board member Tim Morgan said the school district should expedite the process to get the elementary school students back in school on an every day basis.
“Our biggest issue is down at the elementary school,” Morgan said.
Board member Philip Carr disagreed.
“My concerns are about the safety of our students and our staff, and our families,” Carr said. “I know we have students who have lost multiple grandparents and I don’t want to go back there again. I don’t want another death.”
“We are all trying to do our best,” board member Gail Ralston said.
Struble said some parents have told him they would put their children in full-time cyber school if the district goes back to school on an every day basis.