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Edmonds superintendent starts ‘No New Work Wednesdays’ for students to catch up

A "do not disturb" sign for zoom sessions is posted on a classroom door during the first day back to school on Dec. 07, 2020 at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

In the Edmonds School District, there’s a new policy the superintendent instituted called “No New Work Wednesdays,” which he says will hopefully allow students to get caught up on homework.

“Kids are struggling. Teachers are struggling. I think everybody’s working as hard they can, just no one signed up to do this,” Superintendent Dr. Gustavo Balderas told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show. “But I think every district is doing the best they can based on the current situation we’re dealing with. And that’s having to be remote.”

“So people have had to … quickly move from the brick and mortar teaching and learning to the remote learning, and it’s gotten better than it was, but still not great,” he added.

Dori says he has heard from districts, superintendents, and parents statewide that kids are failing in record numbers as remote learning continues. While some districts have decided to alter their grading system, Edmonds is trying “no new work Wednesdays” for the month of December.

“I think what’s happened as well is I think everybody’s trying to do the same amount of content, same amount of homework as we had last year when it was in a brick and mortar, in a regular 1st, 2nd, 3rd grade … classroom, and kids are struggling,” he said. “… Every kid I talk to is struggling to keep up with the homework because of the fact that that hasn’t changed. So we’re working with our staff to get them to understand the struggles that our kids are in. And some kids, this is just not the best venue for them to be able to learn, and trying to get them to be caught up. So the goal is truly is to get kids caught up on their homework that’s been missing because, again, they are struggling.”

Hopefully, by having this in place for December, kids can catch up before the semester ends in January.

“I think right now [we’re] trying to get all our kids and faculty to understand that we’re in different times, that we’re not back where we were,” Balderas said.

It’s difficult for kids to pay attention through a small screen and there just can’t be as much engagement remotely as there would be in person. So kids, Balderas says, maybe aren’t understanding the content, and then often have to learn it by themselves.

“That’s a reality that we’re living in right now,” he said. “No one wants to be here. It’s just what it is.”

Many WA students missing out on ‘one time to be in organized sports’

Moving forward, Balderas says the Edmonds School District is working hard to get kids back in school. The goal in Edmonds, he says, is to keep bringing in pockets of kids as it’s safe to do so, and hopefully have full classes in person again sometime this year.

Dori pointed out that Dr. Fauci, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and local medical associations have said that kids seem to be pretty bad transmitters of COVID-19, so why not open schools now?

“Part of it is just looking at all the metrics and what we’re doing on the West Coast,” Balderas said. “We’re no different than Oregon and California in terms of what we’re looking at and following, the Department of Health guidance in terms of when we could open up schools. I think a lot of districts are trying to bring some kids in, in special groupings.”

“Having a whole cluster of kids in when we’re close to 400 cases per 100,000, it’s probably not going to be doable anytime soon, but I think districts are working really hard to try to bring in some of our students that are traditionally most marginalized or are truly struggling, students with special needs,” he added. “Right now here in Edmonds, we have some of our students who are deaf or hard of hearing and also visually impaired in, and we’re trying to bring more kids in right now. But again, I think having full scale grades, that’s going to be a ways off until we get the virus under control, under at least 400. I mean, we were literally at 40 cases per 100,000 about six weeks ago it seems, and then it just skyrocketed.”

Dr. Balderas sits on the national COVID task force for the ASA, which is the national superintendent association and says of greater concern than the spread inside schools is community transmission.

“I know across the country, it depends on on where you sit, but I think you’re correct that we’re not seeing any spikes because of classrooms being open,” Balderas said. “It’s what’s happening outside the classroom that’s causing concern. Also, there’s a concern that educators coming onto campus, that is a concern because they are the adults, and we have an older teaching population here in Washington state.”

“At the end of the day, we all care about our kids and want to do what’s best for them, all of them,” the superintendent said. “And I think this is just a struggle for all kids right now.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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