The Thompson School Board heard the update about the district’s online programming as a number of teachers, students and community members came to the podium to ask the council to continue the online programming that was expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic.
District officials presented a plan for the next school year at their two-week meeting, which will integrate the district’s online learning program into three schools, Lincoln Elementary School, Walt Clark High School and Thompson Valley High School.
While online research existed to some extent before the pandemic, COVID-19 called for an expansion of education beyond brick and mortar classrooms, an expansion that is now at risk of reversal as pandemic response measures expire.
The Primary and Secondary School Ambulance Fund (ESSR) has funded much of the expansion of online learning by funding the hiring of new teachers.
“It was fully funded by ESSR dollars,” said Tracy Stegall, the district’s executive director of education and training. “Those ESSR dollars will go down in May of this year.”
In-house surveys in the district have shown a strong interest in continuing online education. Of the 138 respondents, 53 households or 39% said that if they continued concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, they would be interested in keeping their students in online learning, while 65 respondents or 47% said they were concerned about the reasons. others will be interested in online learning.
Stegall said decoding survey data is somewhat difficult because respondents are households, not individual students, and some households may have more than one student. It is also difficult to determine how many households may be concerned about COVID-19 at any given time.
“We want to do everything possible within the limits we now have with competitive advantages across the district,” Stegal said.
A number of teachers working in the online program have spoken out in favor of finding a way to continue the program in its current form, saying that their students enjoy the opportunity to study online for a number of reasons.
The school board is expected to consider the matter later.