The Dunlap School Board rejected a condensed schedule that would have limited in-person learning in favor of a more "face-to-face" approach.
That vote went against the apparent wishes of the teachers, parents, and students who spoke for more than an hour during the public comment portion of Wednesday's meeting, largely in favor of a "condensed" plan that would have shortened the school day to allow for more cleaning time and social distancing protocols.
District planning documents also termed it the "most fiscally responsible" choice, as it would reduce the need for remote learning and fill gaps in substitute teacher availability.
Families also have the option to learn fully remotely.
Sue Kreutz is a fourth grade teacher at Wilder-Waite. She was one of several district employees who expressed her discomfort to the board about returning to work on a full schedule with so much uncertainty amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I have roughly 340 unused sick days. I'm praying I don't have to dig too deep into them as a result of choosing to teach," she said. "A majority of teachers want to return to the class. We just hope not to be put there as canaries in the coal mine."
Dunlap High School Spanish teacher Sandra Iadipaolo said both she and her husband are considered high-risk. She suffers from an autoimmune disorder, and her husband is a cancer survivor, she said.
"My 10-year-old has already asked me to promise him I will not die as I return to my workplace," she said as her voice cracked with emotion, asking the board to choose the condensed learning option.
But after more than three hours of discussion, only one board member, Tim Wagenbach, favored the condensed learning schedule. The audience applauded loudly whenever Wagenbach spoke in favor of the plan.
"I don't have enough data that says why not," said board member Theresa Holshouser. "I understand there's risks. There's risks with everything. But I'm not willing to take the risk for the students' education, because that's why I'm here," mentioning in-person learning is especially important for those on an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, plan.
Board President Abby Humbles said it's worth potentially dipping into reserves to pay for both in-person and remote learning options to ensure the best education for students.
"This is an emergency. This is what we save for. You know, we don't save for extras. We save for times when we need it. And this is a time when we need to invest in our children and their education," she said.
Parents must select a learning option by Monday. Those who choose remote learning will have the option to switch to in-person for their student's next semester.
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