This email was sent to the FRCS community on 11/19/20.
Dear FRCS Community,
Last night at the FRCS Board Meeting, the Board voted, based on a thorough review of four specific areas of consideration, to extend the first possible hybrid start dates to no earlier than December 7.
Key factors to reopening for our unique district are based on (1) Health, (2) Quality of Education, (3) Staffing; and (4) Technology, as each plays a critical role in the effectiveness of instruction.
Please know that we recognize there are no good solutions and we all believe that in-person instruction is the best way to reach and teach children. However, under these unprecedented circumstances, we must make the best decisions we can with the information we have. We must also keep in mind that the information we have is changing on a daily basis and teachers, leadership, and the Board of Trustees are doing their very best to provide a program that is best for kids, regardless of the ever-changing challenges. Below is a summary of the discussion surrounding the challenges of each key consideration, which weighed into the decision making process:
FRCS has unique challenges as a K-12, regional school, servicing over 20 towns and cities. As of the most recent data released last Thursday night by the Department of Public Health, 19 of our 20+ communities are experiencing an increasing number of COVID cases and positivity rates. The numbers expected to be released this evening are anticipated to show continued spread and for this reason, along with the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, when spread is anticipated to increase rapidly, the decision was made to prioritize health and safety and to remain remote.
Quality of Education
FRCS has prioritized remote learning and instruction in all areas: distributing 1:1 devices to all students, providing professional development to teachers on the Google Classroom platform, improving remote-instruction lessons, and installing cameras to enable live-streaming capability in every classroom. At this time instruction is synchronous, meaning the teacher is able to provide direct instruction to all students four days a week. Should students return to hybrid at this time, our current technology challenges would change the quantity of time that students receive direct instruction. Under the hybrid model, with the technology issues we are currently experiencing, students would attend in-person 2 days a week and would work independently 3 days a week with guidance limited to teacher office hours at the end of each day. For this reason, the board decided that the quality of instruction at this time was more effective if students remained remote while technology issues are resolved.
Many FRCS teachers are also parents with school-aged children and are impacted by their child’s school district’s decisions on hybrid, remote or in-person instruction. Teachers, as parents, are already struggling with the same issues that you are dealing with daily, including: exposure and isolation of them or their children, quarantine directives due to close contact, waiting on COVID testing results, and symptoms that present like COVID which exclude them from entering the building. All of these factors potentially prevent teachers from regular attendance. It is crucial to remember that with teachers unable to be in the building for all of these reasons, and a statewide shortage of substitute teacher candidates, instruction will be inconsistent and disrupted on a regular basis.
In order to continue with four days of synchronous learning, FRCS has been working to increase the bandwidth of internet from 2gb to 10gb. Until this installation is complete in the school buildings, the school is not equipped to support the four days of synchronous learning that teachers can provide to students working remotely. While the installation is currently underway, there are 3 more steps, that are out of our control, that must be completed by Verizon, before the school will be prepared for all teachers to live stream in the building at the same time. For this reason, it is decided the value of instruction is higher through the current remote platform than it would be in a hybrid setting.
On behalf of the teachers, leadership team and the Board, I want to personally thank you for your patience and support during this anything BUT normal year!
I will continue to keep you informed as decisions are made and I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and a well-deserved long weekend break!
Interim Executive Director
Interim Executive Director