Magazine plans for July 27 start to school year

Glenn Parrish
Booneville Democrat

Because it uses a so-called hybrid schedule the Magazine School District was eagerly awaiting word from state officials that it could start the 2020-2021 school year as planned.

“They’ve tentatively said we can go ahead and start on the 27th,” superintendent of schools Dr. Beth Shumate said last week. “If the cases spike in our area, they very well could come back and say ‘you can’t start.’

“Everything I’ve put out, and I’m trying to communicate, is everything is subject to change. It’s fluid.”

If denied its scheduled starting date the school’s board would have had to make an adjustment.

“I told the state department, if we’re going to start of 27th I’ve got to get underway. If I’m not going to start on the 27th the we’ve got to change our entire school calendar and that’s got to be board approved,” said Shumate.

Magazine is set to enter the third year of its hybrid calendar in which students start earlier, attend later, have more breaks during the school year, followed by a shorter summer break.

If school does start on July 27 as planned there are multiple options for parents, including the traditional model of on campus learning.

That will happen with as much social distancing as feasible and students 10 and older wearing masks, Shumate said.

“Would it be fantastic where we could make a clasroom of 10 and spread them out,” asked Shumate. “Yeah that would be awesome. That is not feasible and I don’t know of a district in Arkansas where that is feasible.

“So we’re going to social distance as much as possible. Where that is not feasible, then masks will be worn.”

The guidance now is for two-play face coverings, it had been three layers. Parents are being asked to provide them but in the event they simply cannot do that, the school will have masks available.

In conjunction with the traditional, there will be a blended learning option.

“The word the state department uses is pivot. If we have to go from traditional to blended or to off-site learning we have to have some kind of platform to make that happen,” said Shumate.

That would be much like the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

“We are a little ahead,” Shumate said. “We said it’s not good enough for us to just do review for all of last year so we created our content. We did all of those things. While it was very, very difficult, our teachers pulled that off.”

The rationale she said, is one-quarter of a school year would have been lost, and in Magazine’s case even more, and administrators “were not willing to say a full nine weeks were not important.”

She uses an example of a high school student in pre-calculus trigonometry because that student will be in another class now.

“It’s not ok to say we don’t do anything the last nine weeks. Yeah, we’ve got testing but that lasts about a week but in most school distircts they are getting ready to prepare them for the next school year,” said Shumate.

Of course, she says, she cannot say every student mastered every skill presented during the end of the year, “but they were at least exposed to that learning.”

That helps, she said, if the school were to decide to purchase a platform for the blended environment.

The remaining option is for a student to attend courses exclusively virtually.

The Magazine school board approved adding a virtual academy to the school district’s offerings when it met in June.

“For kids that are not going to come to school for whatever reason, that is the virtual option,” said Shumate. “The two are very different.”

The school will be using Edgunity which is commonplace across the state, Shumate said.

“It is completely self paced based on the mastery of the kid,” she said. “Edgunity will give them a pretest and if I know all the single digit addition it will bump me to double digit addition. It may take me nine weeks to master the standards. It may take me two weeks.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s adaptive.”

There is also a minimum date to achieve standards.

The company provides the teacher of record, tutoring support, virtual video lessons, and if a student fails a quiz they can be backed up to reteach the material.

Those students are, also, still enrolled with the Magazine School District working towards graduation with the district.