The two-way mirror of missing transparency


Photo credit: Amelia Nowicki

By Editorial Board

Given the will they/won’t they nature of face-to-face learning, the majority of students and their families are stuck in limbo. The anticipation of waiting for the next plan, the next month or the next quarter to bring about a schedule change has taken a toll on many members of the community, as they feel it leaves room for uncertainty.

On Nov. 6, the district rolled out new plans for the future of both in-person and virtual learning. These new schedules were met with overwhelming criticism. As originally proposed, the virtual learning schedule would have required students to attend all seven of their courses from 8 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. four out of five days a week. Many felt that this change was incredibly unprecedented and underdeveloped, with concern that the extension would have major implications for the wellbeing of students, as well as put a hindrance on their commitments and activities outside of school.

The following Monday, families were informed that the Board of Education withdrew the proposed virtual learning schedule during the Nov. 9 Board of Education meeting due to the aforementioned backlash. Instead, a revised version of the schedule will be up for discussion on Nov. 23. Despite this small victory for concerned students, plans for a new hybrid schedule remained on the docket, and many within the district are apprehensive to accept a new hybrid learning plan. Although there is no date for a yet to be proposed plan to go into effect, students and parents are concerned that the structure of the schedule will not allow enough time for thorough sanitization procedures and will be confusing for students to follow.

This chaotic communication cannot be justified. While the Covid-19 crisis remains unpredictable and leaves little room for communication, it’s important now more than ever to prioritize transparency between the Board of Education and the community. In tumultuous times like these, it’s imperative that the board keeps the community updated throughout their planning processes, and takes note of any and all feedback. One such opportunity to provide and discuss such ideas is the open discussion at board meetings. In order to truly digest what the community is saying, it’s important that they allow time for questions and two-way dialogue prior to voting on action items, that way all input is truly taken into account before making decisions. 

Additionally, we can prevent future disconnects between administration and the community by implementing a panel of students and faculty to assist in the development of future plans. For example, during the creation of new virtual schedules, the immediate feedback from those who are most affected by these plans is crucial. With a diverse group of members from multiple programs across the district, we would be able to create new, more efficient and well-received plans as a collective unit.

Along with the inclusive development of future actions, transparency should be mandatory. In regards to the controversial virtual schedule, many felt that it had a very last-minute debut. With only a weekend to mull it over, many families were shocked that it was the first time they had heard of any such plan, leaving them in a state of confusion. This could have been avoided had there been more clear communication and input prior to the schedule’s formal release. In the past, opportunities for feedback have been presented to students, however, without context. While these Google Forms are a great way to get instant feedback, their presentation needs to be adjusted. With this tool in particular, it’s important to note what the responses will be used for, as it offers transparency and incentivizes community members to provide thorough responses pertaining directly to the topic.

Understandably, decision making in a time where plans change at the drop of a hat is difficult. However, there’s no reason for a one-way street. To be successful moving forward, we have to become more accustomed to hearing numerous ideas. We have to bridge the gap between the board and the community in order to create and implement plans that work for everybody. We have to shatter the two way mirror, starting with the clarity we desperately need for the future of our district.