From the District Oct. 30, 2020
Message to WGSD Families
Dear WGSD Families,
As many of you know, this week the 3rd-5th grade students in the Responsive Learning Plan returned to in-person learning in our elementary schools. As with the other students and staff who have returned, it was great seeing more children and staff return to our schools. We want to thank the staff at each of our schools for the work they’re doing to provide our children with the care and support they need in order to be safe and successful in both the in-person and virtual learning environments.
The week of November 9, 6-12th grade students in the Responsive Learning Plan will return to their respective campuses for in-person learning. Students at Steger Sixth Grade Center and Hixson Middle School, similar to our elementary schools, will return to five full days of in-person learning. Due to the number of classes with exceedingly high enrollments and the spaces available, WGHS will return to in-person learning using a hybrid schedule. Students and families at these schools will receive specific school-related information.
Students currently participating in the WGSD Virtual Program will continue their classes remotely through December 22 for grades 6-8 and January 15 for grades 9-12. As you remember, we required a one-semester commitment to either the Responsive Learning Plan or WGSD Virtual Program for the purpose of setting and maintaining class sizes, courses, staffing and programming, which is why we are not allowing movement between these formats until the end of the semester. If your student is in our Responsive Learning Plan and you are concerned about the in-person return to school, we can provide access to virtual programming through Launch, EdGenuity, or another service for the remainder of the semester. Please reach out to your school principal for more information.
From November 12 - 17, families will be asked to select whether they want each child in their family to participate in the Responsive Learning Plan or the WGSD Virtual Program for the second semester. Due to the amount of time and energy that goes into the process, including the sharing of staff across multiple buildings, it’s essential we facilitate this process for all levels at the same time.
Our decision to have our 6-12th grade students in the Responsive Learning Plan join our preK-5th grade students was influenced by a variety of factors including: local cases and transmission data, guidance from public health and medical authorities, the continued success of our in-person student and adult experiences in our schools and workplaces, the success of districts that have returned to in-person learning and feedback from our stakeholders. While transmission is minimal in schools where safe and healthy practices such as wearing masks, social distancing and regular sanitizing and disinfecting practices are in place, we’re mindful that case rates in St. Louis County have risen over the past two weeks and we must continue to pay attention to that data, along with all the other data and information influencing our decision-making.
While decisions to return to school or move to a virtual program have been left to local districts to make, school districts have received support along the way from area health and medical experts. Last week, the Rockwood School District hosted Dr. Jason Newland (Specializing in Pediatric Infectious Disease at Washington University and St. Louis Children's Hospital) for a webinar on SARS-CoV-2 and Schools. Dr. Newland has been incredibly supportive of area school districts like ours during this challenging time, meeting regularly with regional superintendents and serving on a working group in support of the development of return to school guidelines for St. Louis County school districts and schools. To view the presentation he gave in the Rockwood School District, which includes quite a bit of valuable information regarding returning to school, please click on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLQTYSrRH7o&t=1761s.
In closing, this continues to be a challenging time for all of us - some more than others. The work to design and implement a system in support of the academic and social/emotional needs of approximately 4,600 students is complex. For the good of the system, including the students “at the center” and the 800+ staff caring for them, concessions must be made by many. While we know people have differing opinions regarding all things related to school at this time, we can assure you that district staff have never cared more for our students than we do now. We promise to continue learning in support of the well-being of our students, as well as our families and one another.
Decision Time for Next Semester Approaches
In November, the district will send all K-12 families a form on which you'll be asked to designate which learning model you'd like for each of your children in the next semester - either the Responsive Learning Plan or the WGSD Virtual Program. So that we can make the necessary adjustments to classes, teachers and other staff, the form must be completed and returned by Nov. 17. If the form isn't completed by that date, the student will automatically be placed in the Responsive Learning Plan.
Photo by Gracie Hedenberg of Webster Groves High School, taken at Givens School this week.
Funding the COVID-19 Gap
The last six months have been challenging for the Webster Groves School District. We have faced enormous funding cuts from the state of Missouri because of COVID-related revenue declines, while at the same time experienced sharp increases in expenses. Our teachers have had to quickly adapt to an online teaching environment, while our counselors have been providing additional social and emotional support to students remotely.
To address the situation, the District has reallocated budgets to compensate for the loss of state funding, provided over $90,000 in Chromebooks and hotspots to students and staff, and purchased over $100,000 in supplies to make our schools safe for our children when they return to the classrooms.
Our school community has hundreds of vulnerable children needing food and emotional support, and many students need access to better internet service in order to have consistent access to online classes. Teachers also need new technology to provide a better-quality online learning experience.
Meeting the emerging needs of our school district will take a community effort – with a commitment to protect the most vulnerable and a commitment to provide the most effective learning environment possible, whether virtual or in person. That is why the Webster Groves School District and the WGSD Foundation have launched FUNDING THE COVID-19 GAP, a community fund-raising effort to bridge this difficult time.
We know that our community is strengthened by every student's success and well-being. We hope you will support us in this campaign to Fund the Gap caused by COVID-19.
With our deep gratitude,
Superintendent, Webster Groves School District
President, Webster Groves School District Foundation
3rd-5th Grade Students Return
The gradual reopening of district schools continued this week with the return of grades three through five on Wednesday. The children who returned are in the district's Responsive Learning Plan returned.
Also this week, the Board of Education held a special meeting to consider further information about the proposed reopening of school for older students. The district is making plans for older students in the Responsive Plan to return gradually in the next several weeks, so long as health indicators continue trending in the right direction.
The decision to begin opening schools came following continued review of local cases and transmission data, which have dropped considerably in the last few months; the continued success of in-person student and adult experiences in district schools and workplaces; the success of districts that have returned to in-person learning; feedback from stakeholders and guidance from public health and medical authoritie
Safety measures in place for all students and staff members returning to school buildings include a requirement for screening all students and staff who return; face coverings for everyone indoors and outdoors at all times except when eating, drinking or during specific breaks when masks can be removed; minimized sharing of equipment and learning materials; social distancing and keeping students in cohort groups.
In addition, the district has ensured adequate space within the buildings for proper social distancing and has put in place disinfecting protocols for shared spaces and high touch areas. The district has also improved air quality by circulating 10-20 percent outdoor air through the air ventilation system, changing filters on the HVAC systems every other month instead of every four months and running the systems longer hours each day.
Food Drive for Community Pantry Nov. 7
#TeacherFeature Beth Rieder, Ambrose Preschool
Beth Rieder teaches ages 4-5 at the Walter Ambrose Family Center Preschool, where she seeks to create passionate and lifelong learners. She says her passion for teaching comes from two places- her childhood as the oldest of five children and her kindergarten teacher, Ms. Deer. Rieder says that her aspirations as a teacher stem from that very special kindergarten teacher and she wants to give her own students the “same warm feeling” and encouragement that Ms. Deer gave her.
Rieder says her favorite part of her job is finding new ways to create an environment where her preschoolers can be “the researcher and the protagonist of their learning.” She says her students’ “curious nature and inquisitiveness bring [her] so much joy” and that she strives to create an atmosphere in her classroom that will make every child excited to come to school and learn. When she is not teaching, she loves to spend time with her two nieces and nephews, bake cookies, and rehab her house with her husband and two dogs.
WGSD Receives Clean Audit
Auditors from Clifton Larson Allen issued a “clean opinion” for the Webster Groves School District, noting no deficiencies in internal controls of financial reporting, the highest positive rating that an auditing firm can give. The auditing firm also checked the reasonableness of the internal controls to help ensure district assets are being properly safeguarded.
The unmodified opinion for the 2019-20 school year expresses that the financial statements are presented fairly in all material respects. No significant adjustments to the district's financial statements were required. The management letter reflects that all significant transactions have been recognized in the financial statements.
Bond Issue Progress: Hixson Middle School
Today's photo shows progress in the construction at Hixson Middle School, with the new, two-story academic wing going up at left and the new gym/multipurpose room at right.
Footings and foundation work has been completed for the gym/multipurpose room, the two-story classroom wing, the administrative/library area and the cafeteria expansion. Concrete panels for the multipurpose room are in place and structural roof trusses and roof deck are being installed. The contractor is installing steel in the multipurpose room and the academic wing first, then moving to the cafeteria expansion and music addition.
Change in Location for Meals Pick Up
Please note that effective Monday, Nov. 2, the free meals for pick up will only be distributed from the High School location, on Bradford Avenue, next to Roberts Gym.
The district offers free meals for pick up, as well as at school for children who have returned for in-person learning. Meals are available for any child 0 – 18 years of age. Meals can be picked up Monday-Friday from 10:45 to noon. All meals will include that day’s lunch and breakfast for the next day.
Please complete the survey only if you plan on picking up or registering for delivery of a meal. The survey results help us to plan accordingly for meal preparation and in order to reduce any possible food waste. You have the option on the form to select certain days for pick up or delivery based upon your students’ meal choices. You can find the survey form here https://forms.gle/D8jwiM8dKfLDSVGS7
Board of Education Candidate Registration
The Webster Groves School District will accept declarations of candidacy from any person interested in running for a position on the School Board in the April 6, 2021 election. Persons interested can file at the district offices at 400 E. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves. Filing will begin Dec. 15, at 8 a.m. and will continue through regular business hours, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except for 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. each day). Filing will not occur on days that the school district offices are closed for inclement weather, Dec. 23-Jan. 1 for winter break as well as Jan. 18 for Dr. Martin Luther King Day. Filing will end Jan. 19, 2021 at 5 p.m.
For those filing on the first day (Dec. 15), ballot order will be determined by a random drawing. Those filing after that date will appear on the ballot in the order in which they filed.
There are two positions available with three-year terms.
An information session for people interested in running for the School Board will be held Dec. 3 at 6 p.m. in the district’s service center, 3232 S. Brentwood Blvd.