Pattonville Goes Virtual for the Start of 2020

“The 2020-2021 school year will not be like any school year we have experienced in our lifetimes.”

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Photo posted by Pattonville School District

Teachers at PHS attended an in-person extended learning opportunity to help aid teachers for the virtual start of the school year, including training of Canvas, Pattonville’s primary virtual platform for this year.

Matthew Jacobi, Editor-In-Chief

On Wednesday, July 29, Pattonville announced, along with other school districts throughout the week, that they would start the fall 2020 semester 100% virtual.

“As we consulted more with St. Louis County health officials and reviewed the spread of COVID-19 in our community,” Dr. Pecoraro announced in the latest update,  “it became very clear that we could no longer move forward with students and staff returning to the classroom to begin the new school year. There is simply no way for us to ensure the safety of our students and staff during in-person learning with the level of transmission currently taking place in our area.”

For this reason, Pattonville will begin the new school year in phase 3 of in-person learning.”

— Dr. Pecoraro

“This means all student learning (early childhood through 12th grade) will take place online. At present, we plan to be in Phase 3 until mid-October, at which time we will re-evaluate the conditions in the community and determine if any changes to our phase level can be made. If it becomes possible to bring some students back sooner, we will do so,” Dr. Pecoraro explained.

Pattonville announced two options parents could choose from for the 2020 fall semester: 100% virtual learning or in-person classes with phases depending on the health conditions in our community.

The phases for in-person classes included Phase 1, which had all students attending in-person classes five days a week, Phase 2, which included in-person learning two days a week and virtual learning once a week, and Phase 3, a 100% virtual learning for all students.

For parents choosing the Pattonville VilleMade Virtual Academy, the virtual option for the fall semester, students would be participating daily in virtual courses, unlike how the emergency virtual learning was conducted last spring. Parents/Guardians are also expected to participate in a virtual training module on August 26th.

Previously, Pattonville stated that they would start the school year with Phase 2 of in-person learning, but after examining recommendations from local health officials, they had to quickly change their decision and implement Phase 3.

Pattonville also announced that they will be pushing back the first day of school. “In order to provide a smooth transition to virtual learning for all students, we will delay the first day of school until Monday, Aug. 31,” Dr. Pecoraro stated.

Posted by Pattonville School District

“This will allow us time to distribute district-provided technology to our students; provide opportunities for staff to connect with students before school starts; and ensure our staff are properly trained to engage students in meaningful learning while teaching online. Virtual learning will be more robust than the emergency instruction provided last spring, with schedules that allow for breaks and activities away from screens.”

Even though everyone will be starting the school year virtual, it still matters which option you chose. VilleMade Virtual Academy will be 100% virtual for the entire semester, whereas the in-person option will move to Phase 2 later in the semester if it becomes possible to do so.

Which learning option for the fall semester would you prefer?

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Dr. Pecoraro stated that coming up with returning to school plans has been very challenging. “I have been meeting weekly with other superintendents in the region and health professionals since March. Our discussions have focused on how to bring students and staff back safely. One challenge has been the guidelines for reopening schools have changed frequently in the past couple of months. My number one concern is for the safety of our students and staff.”

“We developed the VilleMade Virtual Academy for families who prefer a 100% virtual option for their children,” Dr. Pecoraro stated. “Virtual instruction will look much different than it did last spring. There will be higher expectations for students.”

“Our in-person option has three different phases,” Dr. Pecoraro said. “Which phase we’re implementing depends on the health and safety conditions of our community.” At this time, Pattonville is planning on implementing phase 3 of in-person learning.  “We’re going to do our best to make sure students receive the academic support they need while balancing safety concerns.”

Pattonville is also taking extra precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19, including mandatory health assessments from staff, enhanced cleaning, providing effective physical distancing strategies, providing staff with protective supplies, requiring masks on the school bus and when physical distancing is not possible, and much more.

While PHS was still planning on hosting after-school activities and sports, with the recent learning change, they have decided to put activities and sports on hold until further notice.

In order for Pattonville to plan instruction according, Pattonville asked parents and guardians to fill out a survey in July indicating which option they would prefer.  One Pattonville parent explains why he chose the virtual option for one child, while choosing the in-person option for another child for the fall semester.

“We will be choosing the online option for one child for the fall semester because we believe that will be the best way to ensure the safety of our kids,” he said.

“I am taking into consideration what my children want by having thorough conversations and listening to what they want. My son wants to attend school, because he can’t learn as well online. I understand what he is going through, and decided we should do what is best for his learning. So, for his and our safety, we have taught him to take precautions,” he stated.

For families who are still hesitant about sending their kids back to school in-person, Dr. Pecoraro encourages them to look into the Villemade Virtual Academy to determine which model best meets their child’s needs. “If they are truly concerned about health and safety, then the virtual academy might be the best choice for them.”

In the letter posted on the district’s website, Dr. Pecoraro stated, “The 2020-2021 school year will not be like any school year we have experienced in our lifetimes. Providing meaningful learning opportunities while attending to the health and safety needs of our students and staff will challenge all of us, but our commitment remains to both priorities.”

At the time of publication, Missouri has reported 70,675 COVID-19 cases, with St. Louis County leading the state at 16,565 COVID cases, with the 20-29 age group most susceptible. Data from Missouri Department of Health.