Change bringing some students back to school presents challenge for Wichita teachers

Published: Oct. 21, 2020 at 6:53 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - On Nov. 9, some middle and high-school students in Wichita return to the classroom after the Wichita Public Schools Board of Education voted 4-2 Tuesday night (Oct. 20) to approve a blended remote and in-person learning model. This means that before Nov. 9, the district has to sort out schedules for thousands of students. Meanwhile, teachers are trying to understand how the model could work, having to instruct a mix of in-person and remote students.

The blended onsite and remote model rotates students in groups throughout the week. For example, one group would do in-person learning Monday and Tuesday with the second group meeting in-person on Thursday and Friday. Every student would remain remote on Wednesday. The blended onsite/MySchool Remote model for students in middle school and high school is only for students who chose in-person learning when the school year began.

With students going to a two-days-at-school, three-days-at-home schedule, Wichita parents who spoke with Eyewitness News expressed mixed reactions.

“As a mom and advocating for my kids, I wanted five days a week in-person. I wanted my kids in-person,” Wichita Public Schools mom Patricia Hileman said.

While not a fan of the mixed schedule, Hileman said it will be good for her children to see their teachers.

Teachers in the Wichita school district also have mixed emotions about the change, looking forward to seeing students in-person, but unsure about how the process will work with a mix of online and in-person learners.

“We’re just deflated and demoralized in the lack of our participation in the process of figuring that out,” Wichita North High School teacher Brent Lewis said. “We’re the professionals in the classroom who are going to make this work, and I think there’s just a letdown that we’re not really being treated as those professionals in the process where safety and things like that are such an important consideration.”

Some teachers are still struggling to understand how to teach students in the classroom and online at the same time. The teacher’s union said that’s exactly what the district promised teachers they would not have to do.

“When it was presented this summer, the plan to move forward at the BOE meeting, they said very clearly, teachers would not have to teach simultaneously in-person and remote,” said United Teachers of Wichita President Kimberly Howard. “Teachers do feel like they’ve been like to and the district is going back on their word. That’s really not helping (to) build trust between teachers and the district.”

Wichita school board members said they expected mixed emotions about the move to the blended model for the district’s middle and high schools. But based on the number of active COVID-19 cases in Sedgwick County, they felt it was safe for secondary students to go back to school, at least part-time.

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