Scottsdale Schools’ Leaders Seek More Input

Despite parents recent protest outside the Scottsdale Unified School District administrative building, sending emails, communicating online, completing surveys, calling administrators, the SUSD Governing Board is still soliciting opinions of all stakeholders about returning to school buildings and under what conditions.

As the district’s Return to Learn Phase 2 plan is implemented, surveys expected to be sent beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 2 are set to ask again for SUSD stakeholder views on adopting a proposed hybrid education for students to divide their learning time between online and on-campus instruction; and whether to continue enhanced distance learning.

Board members, in the absence of president, Allyson Beckham, who has a hospitalized family member, were presented with examples of the split-learning, hybrid model during a special meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 1 at the Mohave District Annex, 8500 E. Jackrabbit Road. SUSD Superintendent Dr. Scott A. Menzel said correspondence was already drafted and ready to send to parents.

While board members did not plan to make a formal decision on the hybrid model, they agreed to send parents a survey on the hybrid structure to gauge if there was enough interest to proceed with proposing it at the Sept. 15 board meeting as a means to gradually phase in opening schools or continuing enhanced distance learning online until established metrics are reached for a safe return to school.

A group of stakeholders met months ago to craft a hybrid for district students but the model was rejected due to a lack of interest and extreme complications it presented for many students, parents and teachers. “The hybrid was unworking, confusing and created a number of issues,” Dr. Menzel said.

Leading 50 stakeholders, who brainstormed on devising the best hybrid design, Dr. Kimberly Guerin, assistant superintendent of SUSD Education Services, stated that the group never expected to be “brought back” but appreciated being reconsidered for the district’s plans for returning to learn in person.

“Please tell them we gave it all we had,” Dr. Guerin said of group members who wanted parents to know how hard they worked to craft possible schedules with a hybrid format. “The committee prioritized getting students on campus as much as possible.”

She and Dr. Menzel noted the difficulties of designing appropriate hybrid models, which included splitting learning time on the computer, in-person; designated days, times and more to further complicate a somewhat confusing alternative while maintaining efforts to keep the learning initiatives “safe, simple and scalable.” Simple and hybrid don’t really go together, Dr. Guerin said. “Any hybrid has its strengths and its challenges.”

She detailed how the district would want to keep children in the same family together despite differing and staggering schedules; prioritize on campus returns for younger students; advanced students; students needing special education and those who even take foreign languages or English as a second language instruction. Jann-Michael Greenburg, board member, noted the reason “why we took it off in the first place” was due to how complicated and difficult the hybrid model was.

“In-person learning is certainly the gold standard,” Mr. Greenburg said, adding that the governing board should not be the ones to make the choice. On the other hand, he agrees that a hybrid model would serve best in hopes of gradually returning to in-class instruction. “We are not epidemiologists but it is the obligation we have been given. That isn’t the position I want to be in,” he said.

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