The Saratoga Sun -

School board updated on virtual education

HEM Principal Steve Priest informs board of ups and downs of district CBVE program


December 2, 2020

When the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) announced the closure of schools statewide due to concerns over the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, school districts were asked to develop an Adaptive Learning Plan just a few weeks after to help finish out the school year. 

The administrative and curriculum staff of Carbon County School District No. 2 (CCSD2) worked quickly to put such a plan in place to facilitate the continued education of students from home.

As August approached and Smart Start Plans were greenlit by the WDE, those plans had to include an option for virtual education for students that did not want to participate in traditional, face-to-face education. On November 16, the CCSD2 Board of Trustees received an update from Steven Priest, Hanna, Elk Mountain, Medicine Bow (HEM) high school principal, on the districts Classroom Based Virtual Education (CBVE) program.

Priest was tasked with overseeing the program and educators throughout the district prior to school resuming on August 17.

“We started with 25 students in our Classroom Based Virtual Education program. We had three that chose to leave the program relatively early in the year to pursue other options and they didn’t say what they were doing, whether they were doing homeschooling or another virtual school,” said Priest.

In addition to the three students who left the CBVE program early in the year, Priest informed the board that there were five other students who were dropped from the program due to attendance issues. 

“As you know, we have a statewide 10 day attendance policy. So we’ve had to drop five of those due to lack of participation. Two of those have decided to come back to face-to-face instruction. Then we’ve had, since I’ve sent this in, two other students that have come back to face-to-face instruction,” Priest said. “Now there’s 15 students that are currently enrolled in our CBVE program.”

The monthly enrollment update from CCSD2 Superintendent Jim Copeland for October showed 13 students across the district utilized the CBVE program. In Encampment K-12 School, four students were enrolled in CBVE, Hanna Elementary School had two students enrolled in the program while HEM had four students participating in CBVE. Saratoga schools, meanwhile, had seven students with three students from the elementary school and four students from the middle/high school in the program.

“We’ve had some that have inquired about it, especially as cases rise around the state. They’ve inquired about it and just getting some information. I also have some others that are on the bubble for dropping just due to lack of participation,” said Priest. “We have a variety of participation. It just depends on the student. Some students are just doing great, do their work all the time, don’t even have toremind them. Other students, we’re reminding them all the time and then they do it right at the last minute. It just really depends on the student, really depends on the amount of support that they get at home.”

Priest stressed that, just like face-to-face education, the support a student received at home was a determining factor in regards to completing assignments on time and keeping their attendance up.

“I know it can be frustrating for the instructors, especially at the secondary level, because they might do a lot of work in one class and nothing in another one. So, it can be very frustrating,” Priest said. “Overall, the program’s going fairly well. A lot of work going in from the instructors as well as on my end as far as contacting the parents—phone calls, emails, etc.—in trying to get that participation up.”

Following his update, Priest answered questions from the Board of Trustees. Vice Chairman Kaycee Alameda asked Priest if students who were quarantined at home would fall under his program. As was reported previously (see “Questioning the Quarantine” on page 7 of the November 25 Saratoga Sun), three teams from CCSD2 were placed under a “blanket quarantine” by Carbon County Public Health just days before the Board of Trustees met.

“I’m just handling the kids that are out all the time. The ones that have chosen not to come back at all. When they’re quarantined, they do the work with their home instructor,” said Priest. “They still do that from Schoology, but they do that with their home instructor and their home principal.”

Chairman James Sewell asked Priest specifically about the four students who had switched from the CBVE program to in-person education. Sewell asked if the transfer for those students had been seamless or if they were behind the others in their class who had been attending school physically since the start of the school year.

“Most of them have been fairly on track, most of them were right there where they need to be within a week or so. Some of them, our most recent one, they are behind a little bit,” Priest said. “So, we’re going to have to work with that one to get them where they need to be. So that won’t be as seamless as some of the other ones. We’ll just work with them like we have anybody else that’s transferred in, that’s come in and then (are) not where we wanted them to be.”

On the subject of students who had been dropped from the program, or were in danger of being dropped, Copeland clarified with Priest that the district made attempts to contact the students and their parents in regards to attendance.

“We have a letter that we send out. Normally when we drop a kid, it’s right at 10 days. These ones are actually a little over 10 days and the reason that is is because we do the attendance a week behind,” said Priest. “So if we’re doing attendance today, it would be for last week. So we’re a week behind doing our attendance. ”

Priest added that, when the letter is sent out, students are between six and eight days of missing attendance in the program. Along with the letter, Priest said that emails or phone calls are also made in an attempt to contact the student or their parents about the lack of attendance. Students then have three options; either they can catch up on their CBVE work, begin attending school in-person or enroll in another virtual education program.

“Hopefully they get their stuff done or they decide to come back face-to-face. Usually, when we call them and talk to them—we try to call and contact them or email them well before this—it works and they get their stuff turned in,” Priest said. “It doesn’t always.”

Boardmember Karen Condict asked Priest if he believed that the CBVE program was easier for elementary students or secondary students. Priest stated that he didn’t see a difference between either and reiterated his observation that the students who had more support at home did better overall.

“It is a lot different than when we were shut down in the spring. I think those that have not had a whole lot of success or not been successful, I think that was the biggest thing they expected. They thought it was going to be like it was in the spring,” said Priest. “When they found out there are expectations, you’re doing basically the same thing you’re doing in the classroom, that’s where the big surprise for them was. It’s just like being in the classroom, you’re just on the computer and doing it.”

The four principals in attendance—Priest, Saratoga Elementary School Principal Darrin Jennings, Saratoga Middle High School Principal J.D. Johnson and Encampment K-12 School Principal Mike Erickson—were asked by the board for additional comments on the CBVE program. The common thread among all four schools represented appeared to be the extra workload for those educators who had agreed to take on the CBVE program along with teaching in-person.

“I think the biggest frustration is the kids that don’t do the work. If we could get the kids to turn stuff in on time, that would be (great) but I don’t have the magic bullet for that,” Preist said. “If I had the magic bullet for that, I’d write a book and travel the country and tell people how to do it but I don’t.”

The next meeting of the Carbon County School District No. 2 Board of Trustees will be at 5 p.m. on December 17 at the Central Office in Saratoga.


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