As the Grand Forks School District enters the fifth week of the school year, Superintendent Terry Brenner said overall things are going “so far, so good,” but he’s received feedback from high school teachers who are feeling “overwhelmed” by the challenges of teaching in the hybrid model whereby students are in school on alternate days.
Brenner recently met for the first time with a group of new teachers, the first of five or six such meetings this school year, he told the Grand Forks School Board at its regular meeting Monday, Sept. 28. The teachers discussed the challenges of providing face-to-face learning, coupled with planning for distance learning, he said.
“They are on call 24/7," he said. "The high school folks are trying to do everything.”
But teachers at all levels “are feeling overwhelmed, whether it’s in general education or special education,” Brenner said, as they grapple with changes brought on by the pandemic and struggle to keep students engaged in their learning.
“Those are the challenges and we’re working through those challenges,” he said.
About 1,300 students have chosen to learn remotely, at least for the start of this school year, but he expects that a survey of parents next month will reveal “more will want to return" to in-person learning in November or January, after their initial commitment of a trimester or semester, he said. That may mean having to find alternative space outside the school setting, which the district is exploring, or creating different cohorts of students.
School administrators are having difficulty filling substitute teacher openings, especially for the middle and high school grades – a stressor that is not COVID-related, Brenner said.
School Board members also welcomed students Alicia de la Cruz, a junior at Red River High School, and Evan Whalen, a junior at Grand Forks Central High School, to sit on the board in an advisory capacity.
For the past few years, principals at each high school have nominated a student to serve one-year terms. Students’ contributions and input on the board discussions have been “invaluable,” said Eric Lunn, vice president of the board.