Othello School District patrons to be surveyed on on-campus instruction

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | September 18, 2020 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — Othello School District patrons will be asked to fill out a survey asking their opinions on a timeline and planning for a return to some kind of in-person instruction in the district.

Othello School Board chair Mike Garza asked for a survey after an extensive discussion of online and in-person learning during the regular board meeting Sept. 14.

Board members took no action other than to ask for the survey.

The discussion on what Garza called a “complex decision” followed a request from board member Lindsy Prows to talk about starting planning for at least some on-campus instruction. Othello started the year offering online instruction, due to the COVID-19 outbreak and the spread of the virus in Adams County.

District officials also considered a hybrid model, where students received on-campus instruction part time and online instruction part time. District officials recommended, and board members approved, the online option due to the status of the outbreak in Othello at the time school started.

Prows said she’s been challenged by the online instruction, and if it’s difficult for her, it must be even more difficult for single parents, or parents working outside the home. Othello teachers and staff are doing what they can, she said, but in her opinion a lot of Othello children are not getting what they need.

Prows said she agreed that district officials would need to take precautions to protect students and staff against the coronavirus. But in her opinion children in kindergarten through third grade, and possibly up to sixth grade, should return to school using the hybrid model as soon as possible.

Board member Ken Johnson said in his opinion district officials needed to start considering the path forward to get kids back to campus. Some parents and teachers won’t be comfortable on campus, Johnson said, but the district can accommodate those situations, in his opinion. Board member Sharon Schutte said she too wanted to start the planning for a return to some in-person instruction.

But board member Jenn Stevenson said the district already has agreements with the unions representing teachers and other staff, and those agreements set benchmarks for reopening. Othello and the surrounding area are not close to reaching those benchmarks, Stevenson said.

She was concerned about the possibility of a coronavirus outbreak, Stevenson said, and the district’s vulnerability to a lawsuit in the case of an outbreak.

Garza suggested the survey as a first step regardless of the final decision. He cautioned that people may think they know what the survey results will be, but they may be wrong.

Stevenson asked if two weeks would be enough to get adequate answers, but Prows said two weeks might be too long. District superintendent Chris Hurst said it would take a few days to work out the details, including the questions and a proposed survey timeline.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.