Community Conversations Reveal Lessons

Community Conversations Reveal Lessons Learned
Posted on 03/09/2021
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Nearly 100 people participated in last week’s series of community conversations focused on lessons learned about education during a pandemic. School board members and district leaders listened in on both small and large group discussions over three days that included parents, secondary students and staff.

“It was very important to us that we include a community conversation around education during a pandemic,” said Board President Kelley Casper. Now in its eighth year, the community engagement program has shifted to a virtual setting in order for the board and district leaders to continue listening to the community amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Student voice is always an important part of gathering feedback for district leaders - and this topic was no different. High school and junior school students participated in separate sessions so they could share their thoughts. “I’m a big advocate for student voice,” said Casper. “They are always so honest and forthcoming and offer a very important perspective.”

Each group was first asked to reflect on this school year and share concerns they may have - and offer suggestions for improvement. They were then asked to think about what went well this year and share what the district should continue to include in the future. 

While each group brought unique thoughts to the discussion, there were also similarities, including concerns about keeping students who are absent for COVID-related reasons up to speed. High school students also noted that “in class pacing is difficult because kids are absent,” referring to the number of students who may be quarantined. Staff and parents both shared concerns about class size, while both student groups agreed that having daily block schedules is difficult.

During each of the meetings, participants shared that the introduction of model courses has been very helpful. These video lessons were developed over the summer by Lakota teachers for the district’s virtual learning option. Students appreciate having the ability to review the video lessons to reinforce what they have learned. Parents also shared positive feedback because they are able to watch the lessons and gain a better understanding of what their students are learning. Furthermore, teachers appreciate being able to have the lessons available as a supplement for in-person instruction.

“Much as we’ve done in the past, we are continuously seeking to improve what we do for our families, our students and our staff,” said board member Lynda O’Connor. “I thought there was a lot of constructive feedback. There were definitely some concerns voiced,” she continued, “but there was a lot of what worked well and here’s how we can improve so we can do better for our students, families and staff.”

Click here to read the complete notes from the conversations.