In March 2020, hundreds of thousands schools closed with uncertainty of the future in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, just over a year later, many school districts are planning for a return to a sense of normalcy by implementing all in-person learning instruction, including Jamesville-DeWitt. The current date for this return is set on Monday, April 12, 2021.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, global concerns have been raised about the detrimental effects of remote learning instruction on students’ health.
“Remote learning is difficult for students, especially when taking into consideration how their social and emotional health suffers when disconnected from the rest of the school learning community,” said J-DHS Principal Paul Gasparini. For this reason, many demanded the re-establishment of in-person learning instruction.
The pressure for this return came from the concerns of the school board, administration, teachers, parents, and even students. Although everyone was involved, the real decision was left in the hands of the state government and political leaders, as well as the county executive. After Onondaga County’s announcement on March 4th that allowed schools to decrease social distancing guidelines to 3 feet so long as there is some kind of partition between students, administration began to devise a plan to effectively reinstate in-person learning instruction.
On March 14th, 2021, Superintendent Peter Smith emailed a memo addressed to J-D families on an in-person learning update. This memo divided the students of the district into three groups, grades K-1 and special education, grades 2-4, and grades 5-12. Students in grades K-1 and special education will continue to attend school five days in-person. Students in grades 2-4 will shift to four days of in-person instruction on April 12th, followed by a transition to five days of in-person instruction on May 3rd. Students in grades 5-12 will shift to four days of in-person instruction on April 12th, and will continue this four-day instructional model through the end of the 2020-2021 school year, with Wednesdays serving as remote instructional days for these students and staff.
The debate over keeping Wednesdays as remote instructional days was extremely controversial and, after long consideration, administration ultimately decided to keep these days as a result of students and teachers productive use of them. Gasparini adds, “to reinstate everything at once would be counterproductive.”
Students were also given the option for all remote learning instruction, which would be carried out in the same manner as it is now. For example, the continued use of virtual meetings such as Zoom or Google Meet, video notes, take home assessments, and so on, depending on the teacher or class.
With this return to all in-person learning instruction, the district hopes to eventually reclaim a regular school day rotation as well as build back some sense of normalcy. This transition is only a stepping stone in the path that ultimately leads to five days of all in-person learning instruction with all students in the building, expectantly implemented this September.