Request from Parents about QUEST Hybrid and Online Learning
October 7, 2020
To the RICHLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT Board Members and Staff Members
We have reviewed the draft of the Stage 3 Implementation Guidance at the RSD website. It is reasonable, comprehensive, and practical for the mainstream elementary students. As we understand from the document, a hybrid learning model would be instituted once the COVID-19 incidence improves to 25-75 new cases per 100,000 people in two-week period (Moderate Risk). For reference, as of October 1, 2020, Benton County had 98.1 new cases per 100,000 people in two-week period (www.bfhd.wa.gov). This is higher than the rate of 83.7 on September 10, which in turn is the lowest that it had been since June 2020. It is thus difficult to discern whether the county caseload is indeed improving, or if we are on the brink of a second wave of infection.
Given this uncertainty, it would be very important to outline a contingency plan, should the caseload of COVID-19 in Benton County exceed the Moderate Risk parameters—which would necessitate the hybrid learning model to revert to purely online learning. This is not addressed directly in the draft document; although a school closure was considered in response to a school COVID-19 outbreak. In the case of a school outbreak, the draft document specifies that instruction would revert to online learning. It is therefore very important that online learning continues in parallel throughout the school year, so that each classroom can quickly switch from hybrid learning to online learning without disrupting our children’s education.
The draft document does not address the students in the QUEST program. The students in this program are those “who demonstrate exceptional ability, exceed grade level standards in literacy and math, demonstrate exceptional creativity, and possess strong motivation” (www.rsd.edu/programs/highly-capable-programs). These students are on a completely different curriculum than the mainstream students. We would like the school district to keep online learning available through the school year, specifically for QUEST students. A year-round online learning option would enable these QUEST students to switch smoothly from hybrid to online learning in the event of (1) a new county-wide outbreak, (2) a school or classroom closure, (3) individual student exposure, symptoms, or illness. A purely online learning option specifically for QUEST students would also allow some students to continue online learning by choice, which might be because they (1) are high risk due to preexisting health conditions, or (2) have parents whose work involves a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 or similar illness, i.e., healthcare workers.
We would like to petition for the Richland School District to maintain a dedicated online learning option specifically for QUEST throughout the time that the hybrid learning model is implemented. Informal conversations among QUEST parents have revealed that a significant number of QUEST families prefer that their children continue with their current QUEST teachers, and will prefer to continue with online learning with their current QUEST class during the hybrid phase if this is offered. Other options that have been suggested are the following:
- Dividing each QUEST class into two cohorts, with one cohort consisting of children willing to attend in-person instruction, and the second cohort obtaining virtual instruction from the same teacher.
- Allow ongoing asynchronous learning with current QUEST class, and allow for some children to “Zoom” into the classroom for synchronous learning or record the synchronous learning portion for kids to be able to access online.
- Continue current virtual learning set-up for QUEST during the hybrid phase, with some families offering to host 1-2 children in their home for those children who need to return in person due to parents’ work situation.
- Look into past/retired quest teachers to create an online class suitable for quest kids.
We understand that any of these options may require additional resources to implement. We would like to assure the school district that QUEST parents are very highly motivated to help with resources and volunteer manpower in order to ensure that our QUEST students get the quality of learning they need and deserve.