Bedford County Schools Superintendent Don Embry said Tuesday that Harris Middle School will remain all virtual until Monday, Dec. 7, due to the high number of COVID related issues with faculty and staff that will still be under quarantine. All others schools in Bedford County will return to in-person learning on Monday, Nov. 30...
Bedford County Schools Superintendent Don Embry said Tuesday that Harris Middle School will remain all virtual until Monday, Dec. 7, due to the high number of COVID related issues with faculty and staff that will still be under quarantine. All others schools in Bedford County will return to in-person learning on Monday, Nov. 30.
While schools like Harris Middle are still battling COVID-19 numbers and quarantines, Bedford County Board of Education members pressed system supervisors during its regular board meeting for an update on student academic progress. The answer they received was that the failure rates in some grade levels are higher than before.
“Benchmark assessments from the universal screener finished the first of October and are being reviewed, said Assistant Superintendent Karen Scoggins. “Numbers of students who need intervention are higher in kindergarten and first grade. Numbers in 4th and 5th grades needing intervention are less than expected.”
Scoggins had informed the board earlier this year, at the outset of the pandemic, that virtual learning for kindergarten and first grade students was not advisable, but still doable by educators.
She said at the recent board meeting that the process of desegregating performance on standards is currently taking place, that is, seeing where the issues are in certain school subjects. “In some standards, the system has a 75 percent mastery rate at this point, and in others, only a 30 to 35 precent rate, so those are being looked at and will be remediated.”
Board member Brian Crews asked Scoggins if student progress in the virtual learning program is being measured. The supervisor answered that data has not been retrieved, but completion rates that impact their work is being reviewed. “We don’t want to average in zeroes . . . doesn’t tell us anything.”
Crews also asked Scoggins for confirmation that students in the virtual program have the ability to receive intervention, if they fall behind. Scoggins said that such measures, known as Response to Intervention or RTI, are built into the distance learning program.
Board member Michael Cook asked about the new state-mandated, and costly, English-Language-Arts (ELA) curriculum which the school board recently funded and has in place. Scoggins said the new curriculum is going well and that a survey was done, with 119 out of 138 responding to questions of how it is working and what teachers still need.
Based on that feedback, Scoggins said teachers are going to need help and will be able to work with instructional coaches “We are listening to what they say and providing enough support around that.”
During her presentation to the board, Scoggins, a former elementary school teacher, also reported there are currently 8,488 students enrolled in Bedford County School System as of mid-November. Enrollment this same time last year was 8,700, she said.
“The number of students that have withdrawn to homeschool, since Aug. 3, is 257,” Scoggins reported.
Scoggins said leadership teams meet daily to monitor COVID-19 numbers at each facility. “The total number of students currently in the Virtual Learning Program (VLP) is 1,225,” said Scoggins. “Seventy students returned to brick and mortar after the first nine weeks in virtual learning.”
The next date to leave the virtual learning program will be after winter break on Jan. 5.
Board member Glenn Forsee asked if stress from the pandemic had begun to level off within schools, that is, since opening Aug. 3. Scoggins said “yes,” but with respect to virtual learning, one issue having to be addressed is attendance.
“A letter was sent out reiterating expectations and Mr. [Barry] Bennett has been sending emails. Those who have done better are being recognized and those students number in double-digits. There are also pockets of work completion rates that are being addressed to get students to turn in their work.”