Crestwood School District board reverses decision to stay remote, students to begin hybrid model

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WRIGHT TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Students in the Crestwood School District will return to the classroom after all. The school board reversed its decision from last week which would have kept students learning virtually and instead will now soon shift to a hybrid model.

That hybrid model will begin on October 26th. School board members have been divided on this hybrid plan. Just last last week they rejected it by a vote of 6-to 3. They reversed course last night.

District officials say students who do not feel comfortable returning to in-person classes can remain in online classes.

“From the beginning, our intention, our hope was to always get our students back,” said Robert Mehalick, Crestwood Superintendent.

Mehalick says unless something unforeseen takes place, students will return to in-person classes on October 26th. Students will be broken into two groups. One group will attend classes on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other group on Thursdays and Fridays. On Wednesdays, all students will take classes online.

“For our students who are not comfortable in returning, they can stay home and continue learning in the model they are in. For those students who will be returning October 26th, we will social distance, we will wear masks, we will deep clean every single day and during the day,” said Mehalick.

Ivett O’Donnel’s students are now enrolled in Crestwood’s cyber academy which is full-time online courses. But, she was happy to hear the news.

“I’m concerned over COVID as would any parent would be. I’m actually, I’m OK with them opening up as long as they actually do all of the regulations that they need to do. I think it’s good for the kids.”

Dulcy Zeneski has four children in the Crestwood School District.

“I was very happy yes. I really want the kids to get back into school.”

Superintendent Mehalick tells Eyewitness News they will take it day-by-day moving forward during the implementation of the hybrid plan. And if need be, they would return to all-online courses.

A spokesperson for the teacher’s union has expressed concerns about the hybrid plan which includes COVID concerns and the effectiveness of two days of classroom instruction.

The Crestwood Education Association also released this statement:

On Thursday evening the Crestwood School Board voted to bring students back to school in a hybrid learning model. This elicited a strong response from many stakeholders in the district, including teachers. Comments ranged from “my child is struggling” to “these teachers need to stop living in fear.” To be clear, Crestwood Education Association’s position has never been that we are unwilling to return to face-to-face instruction. Rather, our concern is with the board’s structuring – both instructionally and logistically – of the way in which we will return.

Of course, we are always concerned about the working conditions of our teachers, but our resistance to the board’s plan was not about teachers. (In early August, Crestwood planned a full reopening, which the teachers wholly supported. The district was forced to change that plan when the state issued new reopening guidance on August 10). Our compromise favored a model in which students who were in school would receive the teachers’ undivided attention, while students at home could utilize one of several virtual platforms that the district has recently purchased. We felt that virtual instruction was less harmful than the plan being implemented, it was never our preference. We have concerns that the board’s hybrid model will prevent teachers from giving either virtual or in-person students adequate attention, require far too much screen time for our kids, and disengage them even more than a solely virtual experience.

Crestwood also has unique challenges that cause us concern. We have higher student-to-teacher ratios than almost any district in this part of the state, so we have relatively large class sizes. Additionally, we still do not have enough computer devices so that our students are one-to-one with technology. These factors very much contributed to our concerns.

We appreciate that the current school board is focused on what is best for students. We may disagree on what that is, but the board’s motivation was purely to ensure that our students got back to school and to help struggling students and families.

We will happily return to face-to-face instruction. We miss our kids. We disagree that the live streaming approach to hybrid instruction is what is best for students, but we have consistently overcome obstacles that have been set before us. We will do our best for Crestwood’s students, as we always do.

William Kane, CEA President

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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