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USC tries out Flex Plan for its snow days

By Staff | Feb 19, 2017

Around 30 teachers, parents and United South Central School Board members packed into a room at the Wells-based school to discuss the intricacies of their first Flex Learning Day after a snow day occurred at the end of December.

At their December meeting, the School Board discussed at length the ins and outs of a newly developed program called a Flex Learning Day. The idea behind the program was if there was a snow day that prevented students from attending school, students still had assignments to do either online, or for K-6 students, a folder to take home and do some classwork.

There was much debate at the December School Board meeting. Some of the issues which arose were whether students had proper access to the internet at home, whether parents would be able to properly assist with the Flex Learning Day activities, and how the successes and failures of the program could be measured.

The School Board decided at the meeting to create a trial run of the program, and they chose to execute the trial run on the first snow day of the season.

Fast forward to Jan. 25, USC’s first snow day. The K-6 graders had their Flex Learning Day folders with educational assignments ready for their snow day while USC’s 7-12th graders had access to their online Schoology program to not only do homework, but to talk with their teachers who were available online from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

At the School Board’s special work session on Feb. 14, Superintendent Keith Fleming went over a survey the majority of USC students and over 150 parents took regarding the trial run of the new Flex Learning Day.

“At our regular December board meeting, we had a healthy discussion and it became clear to us the one way we could get an answer to all of the concerns was to put the trial to good use,” Fleming said.

And the trial run of the Flex Day “could not have been on a worse day,” according to high school principal Kelly Schlaak. She said the Flex Day commenced on the first day of a new semester, and for some students, the first day of a new class. The following school day, students (and parents) were encouraged to participate in a survey to collect data regarding the Flex Learning Day program.

Results of the survey were posted on the USC school website last Wednesday where any member of the public is able to review the results of the survey.

Through the data available, the USC?school’s faculty, staff, and parents were able to see the issues which need to be resolved with the Flex Learning Day as well as the positive results which came from the trial as well.

In the high school, Schlaak reported the concerns for students were the length of assignments, especially for seventh- and eighth-grade students who needed more hands-on teaching. The students were able to complete their assignments, just in a longer time frame.

“In future flex days, we will be making sure assignments can be completed in a 30-minute timeframe,” said Schlaak. “But it was still a successful day.”

As for the elementary school responses, there was a concern from School Board member Mike Schrader about the availability of elementary school teachers.

“I just think, for me personally as a parent, I had a hard time helping my student after the timeframe in which teachers were available and I just wonder if other parents struggled with that, too,” said Schrader.

There were also parental concerns which came up about when the assignments for the Flex Learning Day were due.

“These are things we are able to fix and make clearer for parents and students during our next trial day,” said Rita Vondracek, USC’s District Technology Coordinator who assisted in the set up and implementation of both the Flex Learning Day program and the survey that followed.

“Lengths of assignments and accountability for staff and students are both big picture issues and there are plenty of ways we can accomplish addressing those concerns,” Fleming said.

There were some questions whether the K-6 and the 7-12 students may need two different formats of Flex Day Learning, and is something the board said it could look at in the future.

“I just hope the second trial day doesn’t happen next year,” said board member Brad Heggen. “We want to be able to have data that is fresh in our memories so we can work with it.”

Though concerns were raised, both from the data received from the Flex Learning Day trial survey and the feedback from teachers, students, parents and board members, the hope is the USC?school may have found a solution to being educated even in blizzard-like conditions.