Salida School Board members postponed an in-person confirmation of decisions made during the period since COVID-19 precautions made remote school board meetings necessary.
Tuesday’s meeting, scheduled to be held in person, ended up being held remotely due to the unseasonable snow storm that passed through the area.
The board will take up that action at their Sept. 12 meeting.
Alexandra Maes addressed the board on behalf of Salida High School Alumni and requested the board consider implementing social equity education with a focus on social justice, racism and xenophobia as part of Salida School District curriculum.
Maes cited recent events as highlighting the need for such a step.
Robin NeJame, Ethan Zeiset and Elena Dziura also addressed the board concerning equity between online options for Salida High School students, those who are attending school online for various reasons and Colorado Mountain College classes.
The concern is that credits are not being distributed equally between the different groups of students.
The speakers asked the board to address the situation.
The board reviewed manager and principal reports and heard a district report from district director of academic affairs Amy Ward.
Ward spoke about the online program launch and said there have been several celebrations and many challenges in the implementation of the Colorado Digital Learning Solutions (CDLS) online school.
Ward said there were currently 195 students enrolled in the online option, but that was changing daily as students decide that online or in person learning will not work for them.
She said she expected that to settle down in the next week or so.
She said the online classes at the elementary level (kindergarten-sixth grade) was working well with local teachers supplementing in their grade level combinations.
Academic assessments for the beginning of the year were on track.
At the secondary level (grades 7-12) learning coaches are supporting students via Zoom in small groups or one-to-one. Secondary is still working on scheduling and classes for those students.
While CDLS provides the main online programming for students, Ward said another online resource, Edgenuity, was added to fill in any gaps between curriculums.
Ward said there are technical issues which are slowly being solved and she is waiting to see if CDLS can solve them.
One issue the online education program faces is the dramatic increase in the number of students using the option form an average of 3,000 students a year to 16- to-17,000 students this year.
Ward said, “We want the best experience for our students as possible. We want to serve them and make sure that we are supporting them as much as possible. That’s why we’re here. We’re still struggling, but we’re going to get over these challenging times and keep moving forward.”
The board discussed the question of possible discrepancies between CMC credits online and in person and how those translate to graduation credits for Salida high School.
Some concern was expressed that credit distribution was not equitable.
It takes 24 credits to graduate from SHS and each CMC semester course is worth .5 credit toward graduation.
At Salida High School college level classes are being taught during “skinny” blocks of 50 minutes rather than the 100 minute blocks of SHS classes. Each 100 minute block class is worth 1 credit per semester and each 50 minute class is worth .5 credit per semester.
The block schedule was put into place this year to accommodate the possibility of having to go to remote learning at some point during the year due to COVID-19 concerns.
Some are concerned that those using the online CDLS option this year may be shorted credits toward graduation.
David Blackburn, district superintendent, recommended referring the matter back to staff for a more in-depth study to try to clarify the credit issue.
Blackburn said a further conversation with CMC is also planned and he would like to see a concurrent enrollment handbook to inform students and parents regarding policies.