BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison teachers will get about 12 hours of extra planning time in October and November to help alleviate some stress caused by the district’s hybrid learning system.
The Fort Madison Community School District board of directors voted unanimously Monday night to extend the early outs on Wednesdays in October and the first two in November to an 11:45 a.m. release instead of 1:45 p.m. as usual on Wednesdays.
Fort Madison Superintendent Dr. Erin Slater said the challenges of the hybrid learning system the district is using for the first trimester is causing some additional stress on the district’s teachers and staff.
“We are in the throws of hybrid learning and there are lots of positives, but there has also been lots of challenges. We still feel that hybrid was the safest way to come back to learning based on the metrics we had at the time,” she said.
“As you heard from our principals, there are challenges with the two platforms of learning, face-to-face and hybrid learning, where kids are doing remote.”
Slater had principals and department heads from the district give short presentations on the hybrid learning impact on the school.
All the principals said they were extremely impressed with how the buildings are handling the temporary system, but said they were seeing an impact on the staffs.
Tracy King, principal at Lincoln Elementary, said the hybrid is harder for teachers and requires additional time. She said it’s also hard on families who are trying to help keep up with students work.
“Richardson and Lincoln teachers are working together very nicely and planning together.
She said some of the challenges center around opinions that are brought into the building. Some are neutral and some are negative and she’s working on getting those opinions left at the door.
High School Principal Greg Smith said the teachers are in unchartered territory and he sees the strain.
“The resilience for teachers to keep up with this every day is very tiring,” he said.
“This is my 11th year at the high school and I’ve never seen my staff so beat up, and tired, and cranky, and coming into my office in tears, and taking a sick day because they can’t handle it. And I get it.”
But he said what teachers have been trained to do over the past three years with focusing on priority standards and what’s important to learn, they are now starting to realize when they come back fully they will have look at what and how they teach.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my staff and colleagues and the district in general. I think we’ve all gotten together and we’re doing our best,” he said.
Slater said the move is to help support teachers and the extra planning they are doing in order to make sure the quality of instruction in face to face and hybrid continues to be at the district’s goal of rigorous instruction.
She also said they are trying to do it in a way to minimize the impact on families.
“The proposal we have is for the early outs in October 7, 14, 21, 28 and Nov. 4 and 11, which are the remaining early outs in the first trimester, we are asking you to consider instead of an 1:45 early dimissal, an 11:45 early dismissal which would include a lunch before they leave.
Slater said the move would not add additional hours to the required 1,080 of learning instruction time as the district always builds in extra hours.
“I think the teachers are working very, very hard, but they feel like they are not doing a good job and are stressing,” said Kim Harmon, Director of Student Services.
“They’re going to make themselves sick if they haven’t already. So the opportunity to get them additional planning time, to capture those 12 hours, will have huge benefits to their ability to plan and deliver the kind of instruction our kids deserve.”
Board member Lois Ross said she’s spoken with teachers and said the teachers are “maxed out” and need the extra time to be able to give the quality that is expected.
“Our district is known for our quality teachers and we need to show them we support them and their needs,” she said.