The pandemic resulted in lower academic progress for schools around the country, and Norfolk Public Schools wasn’t spared of the effects on its own achievement scores.
During the NPS Board of Education meeting Monday, administrators announced the creation of a Transitions Strategic Action Planning Committee to improve learning loss from the pandemic.
The committee will be focusing on closing learning gaps while also increasing staff professional development.
Superintendent Jami Jo Thompson said the drop in achievement scores isn’t surprising. She also wants to reinstate several initiatives the district had put in place before the pandemic — such as target-based grading — but the process has to be done strategically through the committee.
Thompson said the goal is to get “back to normal, or back to better than normal.”
“They are looking at this as a one-time opportunity to really impact all of our students who might be performing below grade level,” Thompson said.
Several actions that might come out of the committee include:
- Customized professional development for staff.
- Enhanced summer school and social/emotional learning programs.
- Temporary increases in staffing.
- Technology options used in school and at home.
- New intervention programs that could occur before, during or after the school day.
About 30 people are on the committee, which is led by Erik Wilson, director of student services and safety, and Angie Baumann, director of human resources and accreditation. The committee’s timeline is not yet known, but Thompson said she hopes work will be done before summer school begins.
“I’m actually very excited about the work the committee is doing,” Thompson said. “It feels like one of our very proactive steps to a better future and maybe getting back to normal for our students and staff. I very much look forward to what the committee comes up with.”
Board members also approved the waiving of two policies because of the pandemic during Monday’s meeting.
The board waived a policy regarding make-up snow days for the 2020-21 school year. Students and staff will no longer have to make up instructional hours that were missed because of snow days.
Thompson said instructional hours are close or have already passed the state requirement. For example, the high school’s requirement is 1,080 hours and currently it's at 1,082.3.
“This recommendation is based upon the fact that the (education) commissioner has granted us extreme flexibility regarding instructional hours this year, and the fact that our staff have gone above and beyond the call of duty this year in response to the pandemic,” Thompson said.
The board previously gave staff two extra plan days this semester to relieve stress, and Thompson said she doesn’t see this happening again unless things change drastically.
Board members also waived the district’s foreign exchange student policy. Foreign exchange students weren’t accepted this past school year, and they won’t be until the 2022-23 school year because of COVID-19 health guidelines.
“According to the (health department), vaccinations will not be complete for the general population within our region when school starts, and I suspect that vaccinations may take even longer in other parts of the world,” Thompson said.
The Norfolk Public Schools Board of Education met for its monthly meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the central administration office, 512 Phillip Ave.
The meeting lasted 1 hour, 22 minutes.
Board members present: Sandy Wolfe, Tammy Day, Jenna Hatfield, Brenda Carhart, Bruce Mitchell and Jake Claussen. Others in attendance: Two from the media, several district administrators and five members of the public.
ITEMS OF INTEREST
— During the superintendent’s report, Jami Jo Thompson announced the creation of a Transitions Strategic Action Planning Committee.
— Board members waived the district’s snow day policy, allowing staff members to have a full spring break this year while not needing to make up instruction hours because of snow days.
— The board waived the district’s foreign exchange student policy, which will not allow foreign exchange students at Norfolk Public Schools until the 2022-23 school year because of COVID-19.
— Approved the bid for school picture and ID services.
— Granted permission to release bid documents for Lincoln Elementary School renovations.
— Waived board policy 4005 related to absence of employees/snow days.
— Approved the second and final reading of board policies 8000-8347 related to internal board policies, including revisions to policy 8342 (designated method of giving notice of meetings).
— Approved the first reading of board policies 9000-9370B related to bylaws of the board.
— Approved the first reading of board policies 5003 (assignment of students: grade placement and transfer students) and 5004 (full-time and part-time enrollment).
— Waived board policy 5007 related to foreign exchange students for the 2021-22 school year.
— Approved the purchase of the five science courses listed from advanced placement.
FUTURE MEETINGS: The second meeting of the month is scheduled for noon on Thursday, March 25. The next regular meeting will be Monday, April 12, at 5:30 p.m.