The Hamburg School District’s administration is working on its plan for how school will work next year, and Superintendent Tracy Streeter said that at this point administrators don’t feel like a virtual option will be best for students.
“We are working extremely hard in trying to decide what is our best approach as a district for school next year,” Streeter said at Monday’s meeting of the HSD school board.
“That is such a complicated piece; it involves lots of communication with staff, with parents, with the community and many others. Our administrative team has been researching and listening and Zooming and talking to people. It sounds relatively easy; we can have on-site (instruction) — which we will — and what are you going to do virtually. Are you going to do virtual or not? It sounds easy but it gets more complicated as you start peeling that onion.”
Streeter said the onion analogy was apt, because peeling an onion can make you cry.
“Our eyes have burned some over the last few weeks as we consider what is best for our situation,” she said. “It is great when you have a team of people in our (regional educational cooperative) with whom you can work together, but at the end of the day our responsibility is doing what is best for Hamburg School District.”
One of the things to consider is how the district’s current virtual students are doing, and Streeter was blunt about the issue Monday.
“There are 280 virtual students,” she said. “Those 280 are not successful and are not being successful.”
In some cases, virtual students haven’t logged in for months, and the school has had to get the Department of Human Services and law enforcement, and has even sent administrators to contact students and their guardians.
“The documentation is so intense on some of these children, (showing) that we are doing everything we can,” she said.
Hamburg High School Principal Tim Outlaw said the school has filed 42 Family In Need of Services (FINS) applications with the 10th Judicial District Court in connection with virtual students.
The students who are participating in the hybrid virtual-on site program are not doing well, he said.
“We brought in all of the seniors on the verge of not graduating two weeks ago,” Outlaw said. “Sixteen were on the verge of not graduating, but since then three have completed (what they need to do to catch up).
“We had some heart-to-hearts. Three of those 16 have returned to campus. There were three no-shows.”
Outlaw said that after talking to the seniors, the focus has shifted to juniors and sophomores.
Streeter said that in the coming year district leaders don’t want teachers doing both virtual and on-site instruction.
“We don’t feel like a virtual option for children is best,” she said.
“Quite frankly the options we have for virtual are just not what we expected. We expected vendors to be burning up our phones with options, and they are not out there. The couple that are out there are costly and we are concerned about the quality.”
Hamburg Middle School Principal Penny Woods said that HMS has approximately 66 percent of its students utilizing on site education, meaning that 34 percent of students are using home-based learning options on any given day.
Even though the arrangement isn’t ideal, Woods said this year the school has seen some unexpected improvements.
“Behavior this year, I have never seen anything like it,” she said. “They are just stepping up and just not getting into trouble. They are going above and beyond.
“It is just amazing that sometimes, when we are watching the turmoil in the world, how things will turn around with the kids. You don’t have time for me to list all the things that the kids have been amazing with.”
Streeter said that at this time she couldn’t tell anyone where the district stands on the plan, but that when it is decided, it will be “very strategic where we are.”