Laura Schlesinger

The Rutherford County Board of Education last Tuesday rejected plans to enact a hybrid schedule for students in grades 7-12. 

Central Office staff had suggested the hybrid plan for older students to take effect starting Monday, Jan. 11 as a COVID-19 precaution. Students would have attended school on alternating days depending on their last name for those in grades 7-12. 

The board would have revisited the plan on Feb. 5. 

However, after a long debate, the recommendation failed for a lack of a motion. So, as of Monday this week, schools were scheduled to reopen; students last week did asynchronous (at their own pace) distance-learning. 

The purpose was to limit the number of students on campuses at the same time, thereby increasing the ability to social distance students and potentially reducing the number of students and employees who would be affected by quarantine situations, RCS said in a statement. Distance-learning students may continue doing so. Any family who wishes to switch its children to distance-learning may still do so by notifying their school.   

Several teachers, including officers from the Rutherford Education Association, spoke against the hybrid plan prior to the proposal failing. 

Laura Schlesinger, the REA president, was one of those who spoke. She said that the plan would continue to expose educators to the same number of students. 

“Excluding elementary students and educators from the proposed hybrid plan is unacceptable,” Schlesinger said. “Quite frankly, it sends the message that we care for some populations more than others. Safety for all is what is right and equitable.” 

The hybrid plan would add to the stress of everyone in the district, Schlesinger said. She said she did not know of another district that had a hybrid plan on top of another hybrid plan. The district’s proposed plan could have meant that teachers would simultaneously help in-person, traditional distance-learners and asynchronous distance-learners and their parents who had questions or needed help. 

Districts that are successfully using hybrid plans devote one day a week for distance-learning flex days, and have separate classes and even separate teachers for full-time distance-learners, she said. 

Another speaker was April Basham, who said she has a son with special needs and who has an Individualized Education Program (IEP) plan, a special education plan with federal requirements. Virtual days mean her son is “stuck at home” with few or no services that are federally required. A hybrid plan would mean her son would be at home more than half the time without the services. She said she questioned how many services he would get for the two days he would be in school. 

Dr. James Sullivan, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said there is no perfect plan. 

“This very much is a plan that is in the middle,” he said. “This is trying to make sure we have less kids in the building and still providing a traditional option.” 

Citing concerns on the effect on teachers, board member Tiffany Johnson said, “I can’t support a hybrid model.” 

The board also voted 5-2 to approve a request by trustees of the Sam Davis Home to remove a dam pending approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The dam is on both the historic home’s property as well as the Smyrna Elementary School property. 

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