online learning

The Berea Independent School District has become the first district in the county to announce plans for a virtual-based school year due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Berea Community Schools board unanimously passed a reopening plan for the upcoming 2020-21 school year on Monday evening, according to a release.

In the special called meeting, board members met with committee heads to vote on the proposed reopening schedule for the Berea Independent School District. The three committees, (Academics Committee; Operations Committee; and Health and Safety Committee) were “co-chaired by district staff and included teachers, parents and administrators, board members and community leaders,” according to Diane Hatchett, superintendent of Berea Community Schools.

The plan that the committees proposed works as followed:

Families can choose between two different learning models. Option 1 is a virtual learning model with support services included. This model states that students will begin the school year in a virtual setting — meaning programs like Google Classroom, video lessons and other online options will be utilized daily. However, on-site services and activities will be available to small groups of students on an as-needed basis. Services and activities will be provided by appointment only and must be approved by the school and district administration.

Option 2 is an independent learning model. In this model, students will learn at their own pace and discretion. Students will check-in with school staff on a weekly basis, and attendance will be based on weekly participation. There will be assessments on each subject at the end of learning to gauge student understanding. The student is responsible for completing coursework and this option is not recommended for students who require direct instruction or support services.

Students will receive free breakfast and lunch under both options. These meals are available for pickup and are meant for off-site consumption. Delivery will be available if needed.

Students will also be receiving a Chromebook from the school. Students will be expected to return the device. Outdoor WiFi hotspots will be available on school grounds.

The district will provide one mask for each student in grades 1-12 and for each staff member. Masks must be worn while on school grounds unless students and staff are able to properly social distance.

The committees also proposed a breakdown of the reopening into phases. The committee advised that teachers and support staff will start back on Aug. 13. Students will begin the school year on Aug. 26. Currently, the board is in phase 1 of this plan, meaning that they are still establishing a framework for the upcoming school year. The board proposed that in phase 4, which will last from Sept. 14 to Oct. 9, the board will evaluate their successes and refine their plans as needed. During this phase, the board will also evaluate whether on-site services can recommence.

“We feel very good about our plan and the viable options that it will provide for our students and families. I am so proud of the work of our committees. We sought feedback and input from the stakeholders in which we serve because this has to be a community effort,” Hatchett stated in an email to parents and staff.

In other business, the board:

Approved a revised Berea Community Schools Anti-Racism and Cultural Inclusion resolution.

Approved a recommendation to ban any out-of-state field trips during the global pandemic.

Approved the purchase of a portable sound system with an estimated cost of $6,000.

The next meeting of the Berea Community Schools board is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 17. The location is yet to be determined.

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