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Virtual Academy, hybrid learning, student safety topics at SJSD virtual town hall

This was the first of several town halls the district is holding to allow parents to get answers to their questions in real time.

Posted: Dec 9, 2020 11:15 PM
Updated: Dec 10, 2020 10:07 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.)  -- St. Joseph School District administrators admit their students are not excelling during this year of learning during the coronavirus.

"Large school districts are seeing a greater number of students who are receiving D's and F's, not just in virtual learning but in face to face," said Marlee Williams, SJSD assistant superintendent of academics. "We are seeing the same results in our virtual academy. We are seeing the same results in our face to face. It has been a struggle and no one will candy coat that."

During a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday evening, administrators said that more than 2,400 students are enrolled in the district's Virtual Academy for the second semester compared to about 2,600 for the first semester.  While the academy has provided a good alternative for parents wanting their kids to stay at home during the pandemic, it has not been ideal for learning. 

"We want our kids in school. We know they need it not just for academics, but for their mental health. We want to have them here, that's our main goal but we want to do it in the safest possible way," said Maria Burnham, the coordinator of health services for the district.

The town hall was available for viewing on the district's YouTube and Facebook pages. Parents had the chance to type in their questions and have them answered in real time by administrators.

Burnham said that her health staff have been diligent in contact tracing after a positive case has been discovered, but added they don't go overboard in sending kids home.

"We will look at all the seating charts. We don't just do it on a whim to send a kid home. It takes a lot of time and energy but if it keeps one kid in their seat, we're going to do it."

The district's winter sports season is going on as scheduled, with some modifications being made on attendance. Only two guests per athlete are allowed entrance to watch competitions. Williams admitted that the pandemic has made it difficult for kids to enjoy the "student experience."

"Not being able to go to the movies, not being able to go en masse to a friend's birthday party or a basketball game. Those are all things that present burdens," she said.

This was just the first of many virtual town halls the district is planning on holding.

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A few areas of frost are possible this morning as temperatures have fallen into the mid 30s. Today temperatures will remain below average with highs in the upper 50s and lower 60s under mostly sunny skies. A few clouds will move back into the area tonight as temperatures dip down into the mid to lower 30s. Areas of frost will be possible again early Thursday morning. Conditions will stay relatively the same on Thursday with highs in the upper 50s under mostly sunny skies. Rain chances will move back into the area on Friday, mainly through the afternoon and evening keeping temperatures in the lower 50s. A few rain showers could linger through early Saturday morning before moving out of the area. Sunday looks to be a dry and mild day with temperatures remaining in the upper 50s. Temperatures will start to warm up on Monday with highs back in the low to mid 60s before a cold front moves through the area dropping temperatures back into the 50s on Tuesday.
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