Mingus Union to switch to distance learning for one week
COTTONWOOD – Spiking COVID-19 numbers have led Mingus Union High School to switch to a hybrid learning model.
By a 3-2 vote at Friday’s special meeting, the Mingus Union School Board decided to go with online learning on a one-week basis.
After next week’s two regular days and the Thanksgiving break, which begins Wednesday, Mingus Union students will all be taught using an online method the week of Nov. 30. If no further board direction is given, students whose parents choose to have them on campus would return to regular education Monday, Dec. 7.
Superintendent Mike Westcott said late Friday he expects the board to take further action around Friday, Dec. 4, based on COVID-19 data at that time.
“We’ll know a lot more then,” Westcott said. “Not only will we have seen, somewhat, what happens with COVID-19 over the Thanksgiving holiday, but (the Arizona Department of Health Services) puts out new data each Thursday. An extra three to five days of data matters a lot when things are changing this quickly.”
Board member Chip Currie made the motion to go with the one-week distance-learning plan. He voted in favor of his own motion, with board members Anthony Lozano and Greg Roeller also approving it. Board President Carol Anne Teague and Vice President Lori Drake voted against the motion.
“We want to be cautious,” Currie said. “And we want to come up with some Mingus Union benchmarks that would help us determine how this school should proceed.”
The 1-hour, 20-minute meeting focused heavily on the burdens placed on Mingus Union students and teachers.
Teague read some emails from parents with a wide variety of pandemic concerns. One parent said a student was offered money and drugs in exchange for doing work for other students.
Currie said there are about 400 students using the school’s optional online learning format, while the other 800 students are on campus. He has concerns about online attendance. There was a peak where 120 of the 800 on-campus students were absent.
Teacher absences were of concern to the entire board and others who contributed to the meeting. There are about three or four teachers out each day, for a variety of reasons, and finding substitutes is becoming increasingly difficult.
There are four staff members currently quarantining due to exposure or potential exposure to COVID-19. The school has had about 10 students test positive since in-person learning began in September.
This week, a parent said, she was notified by the school that five students and one staff member have recently tested positive for COVID-19.
Teague asked what would happen if the illness ended up causing more teachers to quarantine, and what the school would do if substitutes weren’t available. A staff member, off-camera in the Zoom meeting, said combining classes in an auditorium would be one of the possible adjustments.
Westcott didn’t know exactly what would be done if more teacher absences occur. He said the rest of the teachers are resourceful by nature, and would create a solution, but the long-term goal should include the best possible approaches to learning.
“I think the board understands that the next decision it makes about the online delivery model is going to be more long-term,” Westcott said.
Currie said while he praises teachers for having become more proficient at dual-format delivery and for being creative, he also knows they’re exhausted.
“If things were going well, we wouldn’t be here at a special meeting,” Currie said.