Jason Golden remote

WCS Superintendent Jason Golden joined Thursday night's work session remotely while most board members attended in person for the first time since March.

Families with students attending schools in the Williamson County Schools district will know by Friday evening whether learning will continue as it has for the past week or will change to a scenario in which all students return to campus.

That was one of the announcements or assessments made Thursday night at the Williamson County Board of Education’s work session for August.

WCS Superintendent Jason Golden and members of his cabinet touched on several topics as the first week of the unusual 2020-21 school year comes to a close. Golden said his inbox and those of the board members have been inundated with email messages over the past several weeks as parents have been asking about all manner of issues. 

Answers are still forthcoming as the district gets acclimated to a new way of schooling as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Golden said one of those answers will come by Friday evening.

“Our health and safety team met with local health officials earlier today,” said Golden, who was attending the meeting remotely while most of the members were physically together for the first time since March.

“Our leadership team will meet Friday morning for debriefing. We will announce sometime [Friday] afternoon or evening where we will go starting on Aug. 24.”

WCS started the school year Aug. 7 with students in grades K-2 attending campuses in person, all decked in face coverings, having temperatures checked and adhering to social distancing standards.

Students in grades 3-12 have spent the last week learning remotely, using school district-issued Chromebooks and technology such as Zoom, Schoology and Kajeets.

This scenario was to last at least two weeks, and the announcement coming by Friday evening will determine if it continues as of Aug. 24 or if it shifts to all students returning to school buildings.

And then there’s WCS Online, a program that was actually begun for a select number of high school students in 2018 and has now become rather inflated for learning in the virus era. It has become its own entity within the district, and it faced so many obstacles in getting started it was delayed from opening for a week.

“In the last two and a half weeks, since parents turned in their final selections of who wants to be engaged with us in a completely online learning environment, WCS Online has officially become our largest school,” said Leigh Webb, assistant superintendent for Secondary Education.

More than 6,700 students have enrolled in WCS Online, and 615 teachers selected the option to teach it. Some are full-time with the online program, while others are part-time.

“The nuance of moving and shifting traditional students out of their classes to free up the teachers as we shift these students in WCS Online … all of that transition for 6,700 students and 615 teachers simply takes a lot of time,” Webb explained. 

“All of those different processes for the online team, creating those systems for elementary, middle and high is simply time-consuming. We know in a traditional setting, if we were creating this many students and teachers in an online platform, we would allow ourselves about four months to complete this work. And compacting that to two and a half weeks has certainly been taxing on our small staff, but we’ve completed it.”

Thursday’s work session covered much more as board members had plenty of questions and comments. Click here to view the entire session.

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