Bonneville could keep its revised COVID-19 learning schedule

AMMON — The superintendent of East Idaho’s largest school district hopes to keep a district-wide learning schedule shaped around the coronavirus pandemic.

Scott Woolstenhulme

During their March 10 meeting, trustees in the Bonneville School District will consider adopting the district’s current learning schedule for next school year, Superintendent Scott Woolstenhulme told EdNews Wednesday.

Like school districts and charter schools across Idaho, Bonneville revised this year’s class schedules to meet demand for remote learning amid the pandemic, and to build in time for educators to train and collaborate on blended instruction models.

Bonneville’s current schedule designates Mondays as home-learning days for kids and training and collaboration days for teachers:

  • Secondary students learn from home every Monday, with the option of attending school in-person for half the day to get extra help if needed. Monday afternoons are reserved for teachers to collaborate and work on lesson plans. The rest of the week is designated for in-person learning.
  • The district’s elementary students also learn from home every other Monday, giving teachers the entire day to receive training and collaborate on those days.

Woolstenhulme acknowledged that keeping the schedule in place would result in less face-to-face instruction for kids next school year — something other big districts across the state have shifted back toward as COVID-19 cases fall across the state.

Still, Woolstenhulme pointed to several perceived “trade-offs” for keeping the schedule in place, including more time for teachers to prepare lessons, collaborate and get trained on helping students struggling socially and emotionally.

“Social-emotional issues have really come to the forefront during the pandemic,” Woolstenhulme said, acknowledging at least two recent suicide attempts that left Bonneville students in the hospital.

Woolstenhulme added that student test scores haven’t factored into his push to prolong the learning model. But helping kids feel safer and cared for through extra training for teachers will ultimately improve academic outcomes. “Those things are definitely related.”

Reserving Mondays for extra teacher collaboration and training also has majority support from parents in the district, Woolstenhulme stressed. He pointed to recent district survey results showing that 38 percent of parents who responded “strongly agreed” that “their high school children benefited from receiving extra help and support on Mondays.” Thirty one percent of parents “agreed” with that statement.

Thirty-eight percent of survey respondents “strongly supported” and 29 percent “supported” keeping the Monday schedule next year.

The Bonneville School Board’s March 10 meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. with a location to be determined.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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