Enterprise High School and junior high students who have been on the blended learning schedule will be coming back to school full-time beginning Oct. 14.
Enterprise City Schools Superintendent Greg Faught said the reasons why the system had to split learning from in-person to the blended approach – two days a week at school and three days a week distance learning – simply don’t exist anymore.
“The health department guidelines with regard to who gets sent home and for what has changed. It’s a lot less restrictive,” Faught said Tuesday morning. “We’re seeing a huge decline in the numbers of the children who are being sent home – which is the reason why we did it in the first place.”
When school opened, the Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines were so stringent that in a four-day period early in the school year 121 students were sent home. Of those, 27 students showed two or more symptoms of COVID-19, 91 had no symptoms but were in close contact with a symptomatic student, and just three tested positive.
Two months into the school year and following the ADPH’s easing of the mandates, Faught noted the numbers are much different.
“Last week I think we sent one child home and our COVID-19 numbers haven’t changed since our last board meeting, which was Sept. 14. It’s been the same, or at least what’s been reported to us has remained the same – we’re still at 23,” the superintendent said.
“When you consider when we have all of our kids on campus it’s around 5,500 kids that aren’t doing distance learning. You consider the number of dates we’ve been in school, which we’re coming up on two months now, and we’ve only had 23 cases. That’s a very, very low percentage of children who are getting the disease.
“There is no evidence to suggest that it’s being spread through our schools. I’m aware of one case where there was a close contact of a child who tested positive who also tested positive – and that was weeks ago.,” Faught continued. “I don’t see a reason to continue with this (blended learning schedule) right now. Things appear to be on the upswing with regard to the conditions that we’re having.
“So 60 percent of the time they were doing distance learning and that’s not what those children and their parents signed up for. They signed up to be here, in person, learning. But because of the circumstances I felt like during that time we needed to make an adjustment. We did that. I think it worked out great. But now is the time to go ahead and get them back.”
The Oct. 14 return date is significant. It is the first day of the second nine-week grading period. The first nine weeks ends Wednesday, Oct. 7. Students have fall break from Oct. 8-13 before returning to the classroom on Thursday, Oct. 14.
“This gives the teachers, as well as the parents, time to make any adjustments that they need to make before that date,” Faught said. “That’s over two weeks from today. We’ve not made any changes with regard to scheduling without a two-week notice. The first decisions that were made were with regard to school starting. We never wavered on that. We always said we’re starting on time.
“Then when it came out and we met about the potential for a blended learning environment we met and said, ‘Look, we’re probably going to have to go to something like that.’ That was printed well before we actually did it. We gave two weeks then, too.”
Faught was asked about the first nine weeks, to this point.
“Overall, it’s gone well. It’s been extremely challenging for the teachers and extremely challenging for some of the distance learning folks,” he said. “Some of our students and their parents who started online have elected to come back into a regular face-to-face learning environment. There have been a good many of those students who have come back.”
Jason Stump, Secondary Director of Education, said part of the challenge was students not being in a classroom the last three months of the 2019-20 school year.
“There’s gaps,” Stump said, adding there was some prerequisite knowledge some students needed to start the year. “The teachers are having to, besides their regular routine, go back and fill in those gaps.
“The biggest gaps are still connectivity is not 100 percent for these kids that are now on blended learning that signed up to be face to face. They’ve been kind of forced into a situation they didn’t plan on. Even with the new program for connectivity, it’s not working for everybody.”
Stump also pointed out that students have various levels of support at home.
“Parents are working, some (students) have both parents working, so they can’t get help throughout the day. They have to wait to get their help,” he said. “So that’s created its own other issue for students who didn’t really choose that to be their method of instruction.
“We’re just looking forward to getting them back in school and back on track and try to fill those gaps as soon as possible.”
Follow Ken Rogers on Twitter @debamabeat.
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