Teachers in Belgrade say they need a break from the frenetic schedules they are keeping to manage additional responsibilities during the pandemic, so the district is floating an idea aimed at giving them some breathing room during Thanksgiving week.
Schools Superintendent Godfrey Saunders said some teachers approached the administration a few weeks ago to ask for a couple of days in their classrooms without students present so they can focus on completing tasks they don’t otherwise have time to do. Their first suggestion was to schedule the days off for early this week because students all across Montana already will be home on Thursday and Friday due to the state teacher conference. However, Saunders said there wasn’t enough time to make the all the necessary accommodations for an October schedule change.
Instead, the district is considering offering all-remote instruction on Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week instead of having in-person students come to class on those days. In-person students would be given work to do at home rather than in the classroom, and the days would still count as instructional days in the academic calendar.
Thanksgiving break is scheduled for Wednesday through Friday, Nov. 25-27.
Saunders floated the proposal at Monday’s school board meeting, explaining that “teachers would still be working, but without the “boom, boom, boom, boom, boom” pressures that keep them from being able to finish all the tasks they have to do in a day.
“During the day, our teachers are going 100 miles per hour every day,” Saunders said. He assured the board that teachers would be working on Nov. 23 and 24, but would be able to get some things done they normally don’t have time to do if they could work without students present.
Trustee Holly Murray said she advocated for the proposal after hearing from teachers about the pressures they are enduring.
Saunders acknowledged the schedule change might pose some child care challenges for families, so the district wants to hear from parents and staff about the proposal before it is “set in stone.”
If administrators go forward with the plan, Saunders said it also would give the custodial staff extra time to tackle some deep-cleaning. And if the COVID situation is worse in late November, he said, it could give students and teachers “some distance” to help prevent disease transmission.