With more than 350 comments and questions pouring in during and after the 45-minute Facebook Live session hosted by Williamson County Schools Wednesday afternoon, Superintendent Jason Golden and Director of Communications Carol Birdsong provided an overview and update of how the district is coping with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
WCS, as well as Franklin Special School District and most other systems across the state, will remain closed for at least another four weeks or so.
“This is still such a fluid situation,” Golden said in the Facebook Live session. “Yesterday [Tuesday] afternoon, [Gov. Bill Lee] announced he was recommending all public schools remain closed through April 24. I’m confident that he was receiving directives or instruction or advice from the health professionals with whom he works. Of course, we honored that.”
Golden said teachers and curriculum specialists have been working remotely in teams this week to devise a plan for remote learning, though he acknowledged the district wasn’t fully prepared. WCS has had an online learning program in place for two years, but the district isn’t ready to roll that out this spring for all 49 schools and 41,000 students.
He did say, however, that material — both grade level- and content-specific — will begin to be posted Thursday afternoon and that packets for elementary students can be picked up Friday through special arrangement with school principals. Special education staff has also been working on helping make resources accessible for students with disabilities.
Here are excerpts on what Golden said on other topics and in response to questions from the Facebook Live audience.
“The state board of education is having a meeting on April 9 to discuss graduation requirements," Golden said. "Part of that will be the restrictions and requirements we have to comply with the state. We will be waiting until April 9 to find out some of those answers related to that.
"For us, we’re committed to making sure our students graduate. I think that’s a common theme across the state and really across the nation. I’m confident in that.”
“Our hope is that the health officials give us some room, but that’s not something we can control," Golden said. "What we have talked about in the early stages is making sure there’s some kind of celebration. We all remember our graduation, so we want to make sure that there’s a way [for this year’s seniors] to celebrate that memory.”
“The reality is, for a lot of students, online learning is tough," Golden said. "They might have an issue with attention deficit. There may be some accessibility needs. So our special ed. leaders have been working with teams as well to give accessibility resources to those students.
“For example, sometimes a hard copy is more valuable than online, sometimes there might be a need for a read-aloud. Someone with some kind of impairment might need some other method of receiving those resources we’re providing everybody.
“Part of what I want our special education teachers and therapists to do is to reach out to families, so they can brainstorm over ways to improve the accessibility for our students with disabilities.
“When you think about a full-blown school structure where students are in the building getting all of their services directly, and then you remove it from the building, there will be some gaps in general education and special education. Our folks are going to be working in both instances to try to minimize those gaps, and at the special ed. level, it’s going to be very personal.”
“That’s an issue for us because we are not a one-to-one [Chromebooks for all students] district," Golden said. "We’ve been piloting one-to-one this year at Independence High and Brentwood Middle, and we know those students aren’t going to need one. But there might be some other students who would need one.
“High school principals are giving a call out with a schedule for students to come check out a Chromebook starting Thursday. These will go to middle and elementary schools as well.”
As the Facebook Live session ended, Golden struck an optimistic tone for parents and other viewers.
“We’re going to get through this,” he said. “This is a wild, crazy time that none of us have lived through before. We want you to know that we’re committed to your children.”
Click here to see the full session.