AKRON, Ohio — For nearly four hours on Monday night, the Board of Education for Akron Public Schools met virtually to discuss plans for the second quarter of the school year.
All seven board members voted in favor of keeping the students learning remote with the addition of in-person services for students who need it most. The district is calling the plan "Remote Plus," and will begin on Nov. 30 after students return from Thanksgiving break.
The plan, put together by APS Superintendent and others, said teachers and principals will determine which students need the extra in-person interventions. The small groups may be comprised of students who are struggling to learn remotely, students in accelerated courses who need extra support or students needing mental health services.
Final details about the plan are still to be worked out, but district leaders said transportation will be provided for anyone who has previously qualified for it. They're also working to explore additional on-site options after the school day ends to extend services.
"When we're in red or Level 3 I think we can, we've shown some of the safety things that we're doing, some of the technology we're using and I feel comfortable with some of those small groups," said Superintendent David Jones.
During the meeting, data concerning reading levels were presented to board members. From March 2020 to October 2020, only 34% of students in grades 1-5 moved up at least one reading level. For the same time period in 2019, 64% of students moved up a reading level. The numbers also showed 12% of students in those grades dropped at least one reading level this year, compared to just 2% in 2019.
Assistant Superintendent Ellen McWilliams-Woods said at this point she is not panicking about what the numbers are showing.
"Because of all the different conditions were happening from last spring and through the summer until now but obviously we want to pay attention to this and dig deeply and make sure that we have the supports in place to support students so that we get everybody back on that progress and that trajectory.
McWilliams-Woods also presented the district's interim progress reports for K-12, showing progress through the first nine weeks of the school year. Compared to last school year, teachers in the district have given out more F grades this year by nearly 4% and about 6% less A grades.
"Again, we're not going to panic with this but it was a concern that we need to look at to say, 'How can we provide support?'" she said.
McWilliams-Woods said by not bringing struggling students into the classroom, she is making "life-altering decisions."
"We've got to find a way to start bringing students in before the semester where those are huge marking periods grades at the end of that semester - especially for our high school students and I just can't wait."
During the meeting, parents gave feedback about how their children are adapting to the remote setup.
James and Chrissy Hardy are the parents of a seventh-grade student and a third-grade student in APS. James said their seventh-grade daughter is able to manage tasks and stay on track, but their third-grade son is struggling.
"While it's far from ideal, she is hanging in there. Our third grader, however, is not. Despite incredible teachers, careful planning and dedicated parents he is struggling," James said.
For more information about Akron Public School's plans, click here.