Technical difficulties and teacher workloads were among the concerns raised at Monday night’s school board meeting — the first since schools on the central peninsula opened for in-person classes last week.
In addition to school presentations and board reports, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District board heard feedback from parents, teachers and staff about their experiences with a school year completely reconfigured due to COVID-19.
Homer High School Principal Doug Waclawski presented his school’s report to the board, which highlighted efforts they’ve taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. These include the school’s drive-in style graduation ceremony last spring, seating one student per desk in classrooms and allowing students to participate in fall classes remotely.
This semester, Homer High School has 282 students taking classes in person and 87 students taking classes remotely, according to the report.
“It’s a little bit different than my normal presentation, but again this is us trying to adapt to the new world that we are in,” Waclawski said. “My goal is, I don’t want to just get through, I want to thrive and excel and I think so far our staff and our students have.”
Some at the meeting used the forum to address issues they’ve faced since classes resumed.
Paul Marks, a teacher at Soldotna High School, said he has experienced logistical difficulties since school started back up that he did not anticipate, including 1 GB limit on his email inbox, trouble accessing online textbooks and some students not being able to hear him because of his mask.
“As this is going on, no doubt more things are going to pop up, I just wanted to put those on your radar,” Marks said.
David Brighton, president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association who also has two children enrolled in KPBSD schools, said their family opted to do remote learning this semester. Brighton said they did so with the understanding that they would be given accommodations such as alternative schedules and teachers specifically tasked with working with remote students.
“I’ve been disappointed to see, despite various conversations … none of that has come to fruition and my kids are not currently receiving an equitable education,” Brighton said. “I think this is unacceptable and I would like to see it change very quickly.”
Brighton also raised the issue of teachers’ workload, which he said is a recurring theme in his conversations with teachers throughout the district.
“By teaching students in person and remotely, they are essentially doing two different jobs,” Brighton said. “They’ve been given very little extra time to accomplish the remote delivery of instruction.”
District 5 board member Greg Madden, who attended the meeting remotely, said to people with concerns that the board is working on things and is doing what they can with what they’ve got.
“We don’t always agree on things, we don’t always see things the same way, but that’s what having a board is all about — trying to make things work for the best of all of us,” Madden said. “Even though we may disagree, I can tell you that everyone on the board does have the best interest of our kids at heart.”
School risk levels remain low for institutions throughout the peninsula, according to KPBSD’s COVID-19 dashboard.