In its second year, e-learning days are prompting concern from some parents and some on the school board. At the Monday, November 20 Rushford-Peterson School Board meeting, the new guidelines for the program were presented by the district for approval. Superintendent Chuck Ehler reiterated that concerns were incorporated when the new guidelines were drafted.
The program was initiated as a way for teachers and students to keep connectivity with their school days in the event of a snow day or other school cancellation. It utilizes technology to include assignments from the teacher to the students, posted on a Google classroom. Some have argued that the program pushes those who don’t wish to or don’t have internet accessibility in their homes to an unequal educational field.
Changes to the program include the ability of parents to excuse their child from any e-learning day if they notify the district office. If the office is not contacted, the student will be marked with an unexcused absence. Students who don’t participate must make up the work assigned during e-learning days according the district make-up policy.
“It’s not perfect by any means,” said Ehler. “The whole purpose was to foster a continuation of what took place in the classroom the previous day. They can pick right up without losing any connectivity.
“I understand it’s a shift in the paradigm,” he continued. “Eventually, all students will partake in some online learning opportunity. It’s encouraging to have the teachers support on this. There are more advantages to continuing.”
Board Director Jon Pettit questioned whether the changes moved the emphasis from getting students involved to having a full educational experience. The state recognizes e-learning days the same it would a “contact day” between a teacher and students. Pettit, a former R-P teacher, has mentioned the need for contact for a student’s education. “The state calls it a contact day. I have trouble with that. The content is nowhere near what it should be.”
“I still can’t support this,” said Board Director Bonnie Prinsen, who also works in the educational field. “None of us are against continuing with education and using technology to enhance learning every chance we get. But, there are too many gray areas. I have reservations. I don’t think we’re there yet and I don’t think we have the tools for the staff and students.”
Board Directors Joyce Iverson and Julie Koop disagreed, calling the policy well-written and a good place to start. The guidelines were approved in a 3:2 vote. Pettit and Prinsen were opposed.
Another concern for the board was notification from its insurance provider that coverage could not be altered on the former Rushford and Peterson school buildings as the district had hoped. Currently, there is $21 million on the former facilities in Rushford and $5.3 million on the Peterson site. The coverage has been amended from whole replacement cost to actual cash value, and personal property insurance removed, but the policy cannot be reduced additionally unless the district opts to go with liability only with no reimbursement should the buildings incur damages from vandalism or fire. Utilities, other than electric, were turned off at the sites last month.
“It’s disconcerting,” said Ehler. “These buildings are in a mothball state; a vacant state.”
Butch Johnson, who serves as the agent for the district, relayed the message from the insurance company directly. “It’s a coinsurance issue. It comes down to language and terminology,” explained Johnson.
Pettit had further concerns over the buildings’ state. “I’m concerned if they’re offered for sale, with cutoff utility and locked up. I know where buildings go when they’re not maintained. Cutting it off, it’s going to deteriorate.”
The district’s insurance committee will meet with Johnson to discuss the options before bringing a recommendation to the board at the December meeting.
Concerns over Policy #902, which was up for approval of the second reading and adoption were also raised at the meeting. R-P Football coach Davin Thompson brought forward statements in regards to coaches being unable to organize events on district premises without having to pay the non-school affiliated rental fees. As the policy draft currently reads, only school-affiliated events are not required to pay fees. This is largely due to the handling of funds. Community Education events have all funds run directly through the district and are subject to the wishes of the district. Those renting the premises under their own arrangements, wanting to maintain more control of how events are laid out, can have funds routed without the district have any accounting of them.
The policy will be taken under advisement, with the coach’s concerns, and brought back to the board in December.
The next regularly scheduled meeting is Monday, December 18, at 5:30 p.m., in the school forum room. The public is encouraged to attend.