REOPENING UPDATE: Brand Warns Hybrid Model At High School May Not Work, Incompatible With Wilmington Teachers Instructing Full-Remote Students

WILMINGTON, MA — At last week’s Wilmington School Committee Meeting, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand has introduced a new wrinkle into the challenges the school district is facing as it prepares to reopen this fall.

In addition to waiting on HVAC Assessment results, successful contract negotiations with the WTA, and determining staffing availability, school officials are now concerned about scheduling logistics at Wilmington High School.

Only 76 high school students — out of 770 total high school students — opted for full remote.

“Schedules are coming together at the elementary level, they’re a little more difficult at the middle school level, and they’ve been immensely complicated at the high school level,” warned Brand. “At WHS, Ms. Peters and I expected the number of full remote students to be higher than it is. In fact, the lower number is becoming more difficult to actually work with as it relates to come up with a workable framework.”

“I would suggest to you that while there may be other overarching reasons why we’re starting to see some high schools pivot to full remote, I’m beginning to think that may be inherent to the logistics involved,” continued Brand. “We have very few students who have indicated they want to go fully remote. We also have very strong feedback from parents and guardians of fully remote learners that they’re looking for Wilmington High School teachers to teach their children. There’s a tension with trying to figure out how to schedule for that.”

Wilmington High School, at this time, is not planning on pursuing third party companies to deliver instructional programs to remote students like some other school districts are doing, according to Brand.

“This is a puzzle right now that is struggling to come together. I have full confidence that Linda [Peters] and her team are going to continue to work on this, but I do want to share with the Committee that, particularly at the high school level, this is an immense challenge,” stressed Brand. “If we want to try to provide a full scope of courses that students have selected AND deliver those with high school teachers from Wilmington, there are some limitations that we’re discovering…. There’s a real struggle here. I will keep you and the community updated.”

In response to a request to clarify the scheduling logistics issue from School Committee Chair Jennifer Bryson, Brand gave the following example:

“Let’s say there is 2 physics teachers with full loads. Those 2 teachers will be required to teach physics to their in-person students in the hybrid model. But there could be a complement of 12, 15 or 18 kids that also want physics, but want to go fully remote. We simply don’t have a physics teacher to deliver that instruction. That’s the tension. And the same holds true in most, if not all, subject areas.”

In response to a question from Vice Chair David Ragsdale, Brand said he is much more confident that remote instruction will not pose significant staffing or logistical issues at the elementary and middle school levels, but “there’s still a ways to go” at the high school level.

Brand noted that cohort assignments will be sent to families during the week of August 30, 2020. He did warn that teacher assignments may not be included with the cohort assignments. Brand noted cohort assignments were originally set to be released during the week of August 23, 2020, but were delayed after parents/guardians for approximately 400 students mistakenly indicated they preferred BOTH hybrid and remote learning models in the recent family learning model survey.

Brand shared the survey results, which showed Wilmington families overwhelmingly favor the hybrid model.

“Generally speaking, for at least the elementary level, we have approximately the equivalent of one class of students per grade per school that have selected the full remote option,” said Brand. “At Wilmington Middle School, we’re hovering around 50-60 for each grade.”

Brand noted the homeschool numbers are changing by the day.

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