/ Articles / MHLT provides school updates through COVID-19 crisis

MHLT provides school updates through COVID-19 crisis

April 24, 2020 by Kayla Houp

The MJ1 School District Board of Education heard an update on Monday from district administrator Jim Ellis regarding the extended school closure, the district’s home learning efforts, and meal delivery service.

As of the board’s meeting Monday, the school district had been closed for five weeks.

“I think our staff is doing the best job we can,” Ellis said. “We are not a remote learning school district, we’re a school district that wants face-to-face contact, but obviously we don’t have that opportunity.”

Ellis continued, saying some families wanted more school work while others wanted less.

Ellis stated it was his goal to continue to maintain contact with the families and get feedback.

With an order from Governor Evers last Thursday extending the school closure, the district has seven more weeks of remote learning, Ellis said.

He added that he, principal A.J. Salquist and special education and pupil services director Dayle Vanderleest, would be reaching out to teachers to continue communication and feedback.

Ellis said this included delivery of hard copies of materials.

“I know a lot of parents feel overwhelmed at times that they can’t do the balance as far as doing what they need to do and helping their sons and daughters, but I think everyday there’s more success stories,” he said.

Ellis said he reached out to teachers daily and parents weekly to provide updates.

“This school is year is one we’re all gonna remember, but I think overall we’re doing a very good job,” Ellis said.

As far as continuing the school year once the extension, Ellis said the district would be unable to hold any of its usual gatherings for the spring until the end of June, per the closure extension.

“We can’t do anything with gathering people together until July 1, we all know that can change, too, but that’s the soonest we could do anything,”   Ellis said.

What happens next year?

Ellis said it there was the possibility of the school integrating a review period at the beginning of the next school year to aid students in getting caught up their respective grade levels, though no decision or action as been made to that regard.

“I’m just going to speak on my thoughts right now,” Ellis said. “I would say we would have x-number of weeks determined to try and hit those key standards that should’ve been hit in the previous grade level.”

Ellis said he was reluctant to put a timeline on it.

“Kids will move on to the next grade level, but those teachers, we’ll have to assess where those kids are at and having a review period in the general classroom,” Vanderleest said.

Board member Lynn Redenbaugh asked if summer school could help.

While summer school remains an option for students, Ellis said it could not be mandated.

“Our summer school is technically the first two weeks in August,” Ellis said. “I think as we get a little bit closer into mid-May to make sure nothing has changed, I will roll it out again to see what teachers want to teach summer school, and my guess is we’ll have a lot of teachers that’ll wanna teach and a lot of students who will want to participate.” 

Part of the issue with continuing the remote learning efforts, Ellis said, was the lack of Internet connectivity for some families and the lack of high-speed Internet for others.

“I think if we can do more with direct instruction, that gives everyone a fair opportunity,” Ellis said. “This remote learning is not working for some families, even if we give them hard copy materials, so if we can try to get back to normal instruction, that gives everyone at least an opportunity.”

Despite some setbacks, Ellis said the district was hearing “lots of positive” feedback from parents on how the teachers were connecting with students.

“For our teachers, too, this technology thing has been good because we’re all learning, me included,” Ellis said. “As students learn, all of us as educators are learning. We’re all growing, whether we want to or not.”

“Again, kudos to the entire staff here, and to our parents, because I say it time and time again, it’s going to take all of us,” Ellis said. “All the employees, and all the parents, to partner, and whenever this is done, we will move forward.”

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]

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