The Extracurricular Conundrum for Hybrid Schools

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Making sure your learners receive a great school experience in the time of COVID-19, chock full of sports and other activities, is a lot like trying to solve a riddle wrapped in a mystery. To say the least, it is definitely more art than science. In this episode of the Learning Counsel’s Back to (e)School Tactics Discussions, leading district administrators from across the nation share their thinking as they try to solve the extracurricular conundrum for opening as hybrid schools this Fall.

According to LeiLani Cauthen, CEO and Publisher at the Learning Counsel, “When we think about areas of address, we're talking sports, science labs, everything that's going on with CTE, where kids are touching the same equipment, arts as well, music, and all the extra-curricular clubs that are happening. These are all the areas of concern for districts right now. The national Federation of State High School Administrators put out guidance for sports. As you can see from the picture (Available when you watch this discussion), a lot of sports are opening in phases. There are a lot of other conditions for playing that don’t affect some of the non-contact sports. For example, you can still do swimming, tennis, and golf very easily.

“A lot of districts are getting really creative with all their hands-on and project-based learning for remote or socially distant. We've seen tons of news from teachers talking about laundry experiments, cooking experiments at home, tons of different things. So, the real top concern we're going to turn over to our panelists is safety. What it all boils down to is your own ingenuity. So that's really what we want to talk about involving the teachers and parents and students. How can we do this? How can we, when we're together, keep our discipline for social distancing, handwashing, wearing face masks, using sanitizer constantly. How are we going to do this?”

James O'Hagan, Director of Virtual Learning at the Racine Unified School District in Wisconsin said, Esports could be its own session all by itself. What's amazing about e-sports is that it is much more than just the video games. If you are focused on using e-sports just to have kids play video games, you are missing out on much greater potential opportunities that you have. As we're looking at things like STEM and hands-on and trying to make sure that we are covering thing like the arts, entrepreneurship and business and organization, we have a real opportunity to leverage the full ecosystem of Esports right now, and the times that we are in. E-sports is organized and competitive. At the core of that, while there's players in games, there's also the ideas that kids can be content creators in this ecosystem.”

Kyle Berger is the Chief Technology Officer, Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District in Texas. According to Berger, “We've really been trying to approach this from all levels; we have the sports areas going pretty strong, but also trying to figure out how to close the gap for our students in fine arts, and really branching out things like our maker spaces to keep the kids engaged in social emotional wellbeing. We've really distributed out a lot of our kits through our school buses. We have buses that go out into the community and do pop up events, but also distributing out art supplies, as well as the maker's space robots to all our students. We compare it to almost like the ice cream trucks coming through the neighborhoods. Sometimes the school bus will come through and drop off the supplies for the week or what's new for the kids to use. We also have a locker system, which is kind of like Amazon lockers. We placed these lockers throughout the community, and we can load various peripherals, could be art supplies or technology inside these lockers. And then they can pick up various tools that could be musical instruments or anything of that nature. And these lockers are distributed throughout the community. So, they're not just at our schools, they are at the local grocery store or the areas where the kids might go to. We've really tried to address any of the barriers to get our kids access to the different tools.”

Dr. Leslie Standerfer, Assistant Superintendent of Academics at Buckeye Union High School District in Arizona said, “We, and most high schools in the Phoenix Valley, are considering phase one where we're starting to bring students back in limited groups on campus for conditioning for our athletes. There are protocols in place, there are six questions students have to answer about symptoms every day as they arrive, before they can enter the facilities. They can't use locker rooms at this time. They're coming, dressed out to participate and then leaving immediately and going home to shower. Most of the participation is happening outside. They have to be wearing masks. And so obviously a lot of it's happening in the morning before the heat sets in, but we are starting with some conditioning and activities because there is the concern that we need to get them back in formal conditioning and know the physical shape of kids before we can even consider bringing back fall sports.”

Max Clark, is the Superintendent at USD 331 Kingman-Norwich in Kansas. According to Clark, “The Kansas State Department of Education has been heavily involved in helping facilitate a guiding document. This is not a rule. It's not how we have to do things, but it's going to be a good guiding document that has been developed by teachers to handle things operationally from food service, to transportation, to building planning, to athletics and then to instruction and how we're going to assure parents, assure ourselves and everybody else that's that learning is taking place. One of the things we might be doing is pushing the actual start of school with kids back because teachers don't technically come until about August the 10th. We may be pushing that back so we can get our plan shared among our staff.”

 

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There are a number of guiding documents in use that provide well-thought guidance for schools to ensure their students are safe in their extracurricular activities. But these documents simply are suggestions, not hard and fast rules. So maybe the way to look at this is, “The rules are there ain’t no rules.” But in all instances, common sense is taking center stage, and the panelists in this discussion have come up with great ideas to keep their students safe while ensuring they still receive the benefit of a true, well-rounded school experience. This is an important discussion, and one that will help you shape the path of extracurricular activities in your own school or district.

 

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