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Galena School Board talks e-learning survey responses

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GALENA–Meeting virtually Tuesday, June 16, the Galena School Board took a closer look at the spring e-learning parents survey responses and had a chance to ask questions about planning for the fall semester.

Galena Primary School Principal Jill Muehleip presented an overview of the results from 118 parent surveys returned at the primary level, 90 at the middle school and 65 at the high school. As of May, the district enrollment was 832 students.

Muehleip summarized the “overall satisfaction” results: 39.3 percent of respondents were “very satisfied” at the primary school, 33.7 percent at the middle school and 28.1 percent at the high school. “Very unsatisfied” was 6 percent at the primary, 10.8 percent at the middle school and 20.3 percent at the high school, with the remainder of parents falling in between those two ends of the spectrum.

“Our hard work was appreciated by many,” said Muehleip, reminding the board of the challenges teachers had in preparing to move from classroom to remote learning in March.

The high school parent responses were summarized into four positives: teacher communication with students and families was strong; responded to student questions in a timely manner; plan was put together quickly and an attempt was made to do our best; internet access and reliability were pretty good.

The negative list was more extensive: teacher delivery being different; Google Classroom issues; consistency across classes–delivery, grading, due dates, posting of grades, between schools in the district; changing expectations throughout the process; not enough face-to-face interaction–video conferencing or videos; more structure needed/set schedule; more variety of instruction/activities; grading plan issues (differing interpretations, misunderstandings. 80/20 percent split).

The positive and negative survey responses from parents at the middle school were more balanced.

Middle school positives: teachers gave extra effort and provided feedback, appreciated the quick adaptation to remote learning, appropriate workload for core classes, strong communication with teachers, adapted well to the situation as it occurred.

Middle school negatives: fifth graders did not have much training on Google Classroom, parents needed training on Google Classroom and TeacherEase, wanted a set schedule for classes with more structure, prefer more video lessons, special classes required more work than normal.

Board member John Rosenthal asked Muehleip how many students didn’t have internet access, or reliable access. Muehleip didn’t have an exact number but said it was a “handful.”

There was discussion about the district purchasing hot spots for student use in the fall, which would possibly be grant funded.

Board member Nikki Frank questioned the relatively small number of responses to the survey and urged a cautious approach with the data.

High school principal Beth Murphy told the board she feels it is prudent for district officials to focus efforts on a new plan for the future instead of dwelling on the past.

“I think it’s going to be here to stay,” Murphy said of the future of e-learning.

Board member Mike Hyland asked the principals about what the board can do to help. Murphy said technology and facility upgrades would help. Principals agreed that training for staff will be key moving forward.

Board member Tom Long asked if work is underway to improve e-learning in case it is needed in the fall.

Middle school principal Ben Soat said there are many “informal” discussions currently taking place.

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The principals believe workshops for parents might be helpful to broaden the understanding of the platforms and methods used and possibly address some of the concerns listed on the surveys.

 

Other business

In other business, the board:

•approved the proposal for summer behind-the-wheel driver’s education instruction.

Per the Galena Federation of Teachers contract, the district will pay Katie McIntyre, driver’s education teacher, $25 per hour to drive with 12 sophomores and seven freshmen , who were not able to complete the behind-the-wheel portion during the spring due to COVID-19. Instruction will take place between June 22-July 17.

The cost of the program is estimated at $3,000.

Board member Brian McIntyre, who is married to the driver’s education teacher, abstained from the vote. All other board members voted in favor of the proposal.

•heard an update from Andrew Hillard of Tri-State Travel about refunds and vouchers for future travel for the cancelled March 2020 music department trip to New York City. Tri-State is still working to secure refunds and vouchers from some vendors and will continue working with the district to remedy the situation as best as possible.

•approved insurance coverage with Hylant, the low bidder, for property and casualty, school board legal liability, auto liability and worker’s compensation. The bid was for $83,228.

McIntyre abstained. All other board members voted in favor.

•approved a $14,300 proposal from Blacktop Driveway Services, Inc., to reseal the primary school, high school lower lot and middle school parking lots.

•approved the donation of tamper-proof fountains with water bottle fillers at Galena High School. The fountains–a total of $7,175.75–will be donated, along with labor totaling $3,300. The total cost for the installation will be $4,000.

•approved athletic trainer services with Midwest Medical Center at a cost of $17,250 for the 2020-21 school year. Midwest Medical provided a $2,000 reduction due to the spring activities being cancelled because of COVID-19.

•approved disposal of surplus property for items in the industrial arts shop. The district will sell six Atlas metal lathes that have been in the shop for 40-50 years.

•set board meeting dates for fiscal year 2021. Business meetings will take place on the first Tuesday of each month and regular board meetings on the third Tuesday of each month. The Tuesday, Nov. 3 meeting will be moved to Thursday, Nov. 5 because of Election Day. The meetings will be at 6 p.m. in the Galena Middle School library.

McIntyre and Rosenthal questioned the need for two meetings a month, but other board members felt that with facilities discussions beginning again, the two meetings are necessary and can always be cancelled if there is no need to meet. McIntyre eventually voted against two meetings a month.

•agreed that school fees will remain the same for the 2020-21 school year.

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