Bay District and teacher union continue pandemic planning

Florida Coronavirus News

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Bay District leaders joined the county’s teacher’s union in asking educators to prepare at-home assignments in the remote possibility that the school system is ordered to close over coronavirus concerns.

District officials stressed Monday and again to News 13 Tuesday that there are no plans to shut down the school system.

“First, let me answer the obvious question: why go to the work and effort of trying to educate if the schools are closed?” wrote Alexis Underwood, the president of the Association of Bay County Educators. “Answer: If we are providing instruction, we will not have to “make up time” for the state at the end of the school year. If we don’t provide instruction, we have to make up those minutes/days, per the state. This is why we had extended hours last year after the hurricane.”

Underwood’s email went out to every Bay District teacher Tuesday. On Monday, Underwood joined Superintendent Bill Husfelt in a news conference about the coronavirus.

During that conference, Husfelt said the district has ordered extra soap, towels and hand sanitizer for all schools in the district. He says the district wants to assure parents, employees, and students that they will follow all protocol to make sure everyone stays safe.  

“We need every teacher to consider how they might use a combination of technology and phone dial-in technology (like Zoom) to provide instruction. We are asking everyone to plan and think, to talk to their teams, but most importantly – don’t over react!” Underwood wrote. “If we are providing instruction, we will not have to “make up time” for the state at the end of the school year (yes, like we had to do with the hurricane). We know the one thing we can all agree on is that we do NOT want to have to “make up time”  ever again!”

Superintendent Husfelt stressed on Tuesday that pandemic preparedness planning has been a long-time requirement of all Bay District Schools for many years.

“We’re just looking at all the different scenarios of being prepared,” he said. “The state has done great in guiding us and saying look, ‘you might want to look at your plans, what if you had to do long-term school closing, how would you handle that,’ and again, we’ve talked about that.”

He said the best thing anyone can do is be as prepared as possible for any outcome.

“We’re just trying to get ahead of the game,” he said. “It never hurts to be overprepared, right now I feel like we’re overprepared, I hope I never feel like we’re underprepared.”

The district is also making information available to parents on their website: http://www.bay.k12.fl.us/COVID%2019

The full email is below:

Dear Colleague,

I am writing today to both members and non-members, to all instructional staff of Bay District Schools, on behalf of ABCE and Supt. Husfelt. The Superintendent and his team at the District have pushed information out to you about the status of our preparedness for the possibility of the Coronavirus arriving in Bay County. My task is to explain the instructional side of preparedness; what that will look for us and our students. This email will go to all teachers, but that list does not include our conditional sub folks (new hires working on those first certificates). If your neighbor is a conditional sub, please print this and share with them. 

First, let me answer the obvious question: why go to the work and effort of trying to educate if the schools are closed? Answer: If we are providing instruction, we will not have to “make up time” for the state at the end of the school year. If we don’t provide instruction, we have to make up those minutes/days, per the state. This is why we had extended hours last year after the hurricane. 

Elementary

We ask that you partner with your grade group to assign a single subject area to a single teacher. That teacher prepares one week of instruction for the subject area, that every teacher then uses. This approach will spread the load of preparation across our existing team structure and save any one teacher from having to do every subject. Electives: gym, music, art – please brainstorm an at home activity, or two, that can be tracked by a parent/guardian based on your standards. Something simple, but accountable. 

Secondary

We ask that you partner with your PLC to create a week of work for the subject area. You may use Achieve3000 for any subject, not just for Reading classes. Create work that reflects, if you can, what your class was already working on and has books that can be sent home.  Elective/singletons: – please brainstorm an at home activity, or two, that can be tracked by a parent/guardian based on your standards. Something simple, but accountable. 

Copies?

We anticipate that we have to have a certain amount of paper copies of work and sources, as we know that not every home has internet access, or electronic devices, outside of middle schools. We will partner with the District to identify the right number of copies. 

Timing

Every teacher should have this discussion with grade group/PLC this week. A good target date to shoot for is to have discussions this week, and have the “packet” ready to copy or deploy electronically by next Thursday. 

Summary

The District and your union are partnering to make sure BDS is prepared to meet the needs of our students, should need arise. We need every teacher to consider how they might use a combination of technology and phone dial-in technology (like Zoom) to provide instruction. We are asking everyone to plan and think, to talk to their teams, but most importantly – don’t over react! If we are providing instruction, we will not have to “make up time” for the state at the end of the school year (yes, like we had to do with the hurricane). We know the one thing we can all agree on is that we do NOT want to have to “make up time”  ever again!

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