SUPERINTENDENT: ‘Very Challenging’ To Accommodate All Requests From Parents To Change Their Child’s Learning Model

WILMINGTON, MA — At last week’s Wilmington School Committee Meeting, Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand detailed the complexity the district is facing when parents requests their children transition from one learning model to another (e.g., hybrid to remote, remote to hybrid).

“There are inherent challenges and constraints in changing learning models for hundreds of students in a particular school setting which ultimately limits the district’s ability to open up changes at any time,” Brand told the School Committee. “These challenges include: (1) a possible limitations in busing; (2) class size limits according to contractual limitations; (3) possible limiations of available in-person space with the current health guidelines; and (4) securing and funding additional staffing to accommodate students.”

“As a result of these challenges, ample lead time is needed to allow the district and school to prepare any transitions for students moving from one learning model to another,” continued Brand. “It’s far more challenging and complex that one might think. Trust me.”

Brand explained that at nearly every grade level from PreK to Grade 6, the numbers happened to work out so that there’s almost one full class doing remote, and the rest of the classes are doing hybrid. Brand stressed that the school district is committed to providing Wilmington teachers to full hybrid students, and is also aiming to abide by class-size guidelines, even in remote settings.

Brand outlined several unfortunate realities that come with students switching learning models:

  • A family with a child currently fully remote will be able to indicate a desire to return to in-person learning, however, the ability to choose a specific cohort (A vs. B) cannot be guaranteed.
  • Any switch from one learning model to another will necessitate a new teacher.
  • Every effort will be made to accommodate a student at their home school in any learning plan change. However, depending upon the actual enrollment numbers and the results of the requests for changes, a switch to the ‘sister’ school may be necessary.
  • Every effort will be made to accommodate all sibling request changes but such cannot be guaranteed.
  • Once the window for changes closes, all requests will be reviewed, however, changes may not be able to be accomodoated for 4-6 weeks. 

“Some families, understandably, what a change to happen immediately. It’s unfortunately rather complex,” emphasized Brand. “In order to be fair and equitable across the board, opening that up for one particular istuation may not be fair to the 10 others behind it.”

Brand listed some instances where a switch in learning models may be expedited, including: (1) a child develops a medical issue; (2) a caregiver develops a medical issue; (3) changes in the status of Special Education or related programming needs; and (4) a specific situation with a sibling.

Brand announced that the district will be sending out a survey to gather information about requests for learning model changes from parents and guardians on October 30, 2020. The survey will close by the end of the day on Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

“To the extent possible, learning model changes will begin to happen following Thanksgiving Break but no later than January 4, 2021,” said Brand. “The timeframe is consistent with the revised DESE guideliens which provide 4-6 weeks for districts to make changes to learning model requests.”

Brand is admittedly worried about the survey results and the number of learning model change requests that may be received.

“Depending on how these numbers shift, we may have to add staff. That is something we are worrying about and looking at as a real possibility,” Brand told the School Committee.

“We just don’t know where the data will follow. If there is going to be issues that are really going to be challenging for us to contend with, then I would definitely like to bring them back to the School Committee, especially if we’re talking about budgetary resources or especially organizational rearrangements,” Brand later warned.

“I appreciate the transparency and putting all the facts out there,” School Committee member Jay Samaha told Brand. “At first glance, these may seem like easy switches when, in fact, it’s much, much more complicated than that. I think it’s important that families hear that.”

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