WATCH LIVE: Bay District officials discuss reopening schools

Local News

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The Bay County School Board is holding a special meeting regarding an important announcement. The announcement is scheduled for 11 a.m.

In an email to teachers Superintendent Bill Husfelt announced that the start date for school would be pushed back to August 20 and that students will have an option to take either go to school or take classes at home.

The district published an email to parents on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BayDistSchools/posts/3559609740751735

You can read Husfelt’s email to teachers below:

From the beginning of this pandemic, we’ve tried to do all we can to ensure the safety of our students and our staff. As we approach our previously-scheduled first day of school, and review the feedback from our parents and students, we realize there’s a fourth option for school enrollment that we need to offer.

Many of our parents, and students, want to stay connected to their school of enrollment while joining classes remotely and participating from home. Many of our teachers want to stay connected to their own schools and students as well.

So, after working closely with the union, we’re pleased to announce that we are recommending an expansion of our first option to the School Board on Tuesday and we believe this is, literally, the missing link for many of our families. 

If the new expansion (called BayLink) is approved, students can remain enrolled in “brick and mortar” schools five days a week assigned to their teacher of record/scheduled classes.

  • Students have the option to attend “brick and mortar” school in person five days a week

 OR 

  • Students have the option to attend school in person five days a week but also may switch to digital learning if/when the need arises (quarantine, self-isolation, illness)

 OR

  • Students have the option to choose digital learning five days a week assigned to their teacher of record/scheduled classes. This option provides opportunities for students to continue to learn at home while remaining registered at their enrolled school. This model is designed for families who don’t feel comfortable sending their children back to school but ultimately plan to rejoin their enrolled school in the future.

Instead of attending their classes in person, students who select BayLink will have the option to watch recorded lessons daily and live lessons as often as possible. Students will be in regular communication with their teacher(s) virtually and via email/phone.

BayLink will allow students who need/want to remain at home to do so while also being connected to their brick and mortar schools and their teachers, classes, advanced academic programs and other services.

We believe this option will give us the proverbial “best of both worlds” in that many students have been hoping for a way to learn at home but stay connected to their schools. Enrollment in BayLink will also naturally reduce the number of students physically present on campus, thereby enhancing our social distancing efforts. Teachers will have smaller classes, hallways and other common spaces will be less crowded but students who need/want to attend in person will still have the option to do that five days a week.

We know that this is A LOT to digest for our employees and so the second part of this recommendation is a request for the School Board to consider moving the first day of school back to Thursday, August 20th. We believe this delayed start will give our teachers time to get the training, professional development and support they need to shift to this innovative teaching model that includes in-person and virtual students. We also believe the delay will give our parents time to ponder this new option to determine if it’s best for their student(s).

If the School Board approves these changes to the enrollment plan, we will be asking parents to log in to Parent Portal to choose from one of the following enrollment options so we can ensure that each option is fully staffed for those students who choose it:

1. Return to brick and mortar school and attend in person (unless prompted to 

self-quarantine in which case the student would automatically switch to BayLink).

2. Return to brick and mortar school but attend class virtually and participate through BayLink (through Canvas).

3. Withdraw from brick and mortar and enroll in Bay Virtual School.

4. Withdraw from brick and mortar and enroll in the home school program of the parent’s choice.

Parents who have previously withdrawn to enroll at Bay Virtual may still choose to return to brick and mortar for remote instruction (BayLink) by selecting that option in Parent Portal before the deadline. BDS will take care of re-enrolling the student in brick and mortar school and setting him/her up with BayLink or any of the other options available.

As you know by now, Governor DeSantis granted school districts additional flexibility yesterday in determining the right start for their school year. Prior to his announcement, we were already re-evaluating our plan on an almost daily basis to make sure we are doing all we can for the safety of students and staff. His announcement just confirms we’re on the right track.

We know that this situation is ever-changing and that it has caused a lot of angst in our community, in our employees and for our students. There are no “right” or “easy” answers but working together we can always find a path to do what’s best for our students and for our BDS family members.

We also know that this email will cause HUNDREDS of questions to pop up in your minds and we pledge to you that we’re developing answers as quickly as we can and we will keep you, and our parents, updated with FAQs, videos and other information as frequently as possible.

We are in the process of finalizing our parent guide for brick and mortar reopening and will now develop a parent guide for BayLink. Both of those will be added to the resources that are available on our opening of schools website at http://www.bay.k12.fl.us/school-reopening

In the meantime, here are some of the assurances that we’ve agreed to with the union:

  1. Teachers agree to teach live lessons as scheduled. Lessons will be recorded and placed into Canvas for students engaging with digital learning. Students will have the option to log in and watch each teacher, at least once per day, teach either a real-time or recorded lesson from that day.
  2. Teachers, utilizing Canvas, will make digital learning materials available to students in “real time” as much as possible.
  3. Per the union’s request, the recorded lessons will not become part of the teacher’s evaluation.
  4. Attendance will be taken daily in each course. 
  5. Students will maintain connection to their assigned school, making a transition back to the traditional school model more seamless. 
  6. Canvas will be the primary platform utilized to manage curriculum materials and content. This platform will allow for daily attendance, assignments, assessments, and progress monitoring. 
  7. Curriculum materials utilized in the Canvas platform will be aligned to district scope and sequence for each course offered as applicable. 
  8. While there will be robust course offerings through digital learning, some course offerings may be available only in the traditional school settings. 

Again, we know this is a lot to digest but here are just a few ways that we think BayLink will help us by:

  1. Keeping BDS students in BDS schools, thereby preserving jobs for teachers who want to work.
  2. Reducing contact and in-person rosters for those teachers who are concerned about large class sizes.
  3. Offering families the most flexibility possible. These options will be in place for the first semester and will be evaluated for efficacy/need at the end of the first semester.
  4. Enabling teachers to remain at the schools where they are currently assigned, teaching the subjects they prefer/are currently assigned. Teachers still have the right to apply for any vacant Bay Virtual School positions

Change is hard for many, particularly at a time when there is so much change, but we are committed to providing detailed professional development, tech support, equipment and whatever else we can in order to support this transition to live and BayLink instruction through Canvas.

Thank you for all that you have already done to support our students through this challenge and thank you for what you will be doing in the weeks and months ahead.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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