Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

Distance learning progress report


April 30, 2020

Students in the Hot Springs County School District have been doing distance learning for several weeks now and the principals in each of the buildings presented their participation rate for the various grades at their April meeting.

Principal Catelyn Deromedi from Ralph Witters Elementary told the board they are having great success with the current learning situation with 97 percent of students working from home.

Kinder Boost showed 93 percent of students participating and 96 percent of the kindergarteners are on board along with 96 percent of the first graders.

Second graders have a 97 percent participation rate while the third graders are all joining in at 100 percent participation. Fourth grade is not far behind them with 97 percent of students distance learning.

Steven Soderstrom, the newest principal at Thermopolis Middle School, said he has a 95 percent participation rate with the online learning process. He added there are some students who are refusing to do any work at all, but his team of educators is trying to keep on top of it.

In this fifth week, 98 percent of the fifth graders are participating, the same percentage as the sixth graders.

The seventh graders are having a little harder time with just 89 percent of them participating now, down from 93 percent the week before and 97 percent from two weeks ago.

The eighth graders are holding their own with 94 percent participation as they prepare to move into high school.

High school principal, Breez Daniels, said they have 100 percent communication with all of the high school students, however, some of the learning materials are being turned in not exactly on time. Some students will occasionally just drop off the “radar” for several days and then reappear with all kinds of assignments finished and then they may not hear from them for several more days.

She said some of the high school students are also refusing to work, just like the middle school. In addition, the amount of work being done by students often varies from class to class.

For instance, one student may love math and get all of those assignments done quickly while their English assignments go by the wayside because they are not as interested in English as they are in math.

Breaking down how the class participation looks, Daniels said the freshman class has 92 percent participation rate and the sophomores are at 90 percent.

The junior and senior classes, however, do not have rates as high.

In fact, Daniels said the junior class has been very negative and very outspoken about their dislike for the distance learning, saying it just isn’t working for them. Their participation rate is just 71 percent.

As high school is winding down for the senior class, it isn’t unusual for them to get “senior-itis” even while they’re in school, so their 85 percent participation rate isn’t really that surprising.

Kristin Ryan reported, too, that they have been documenting provisional services during these past weeks and student engagement for those on IEP is 87 percent.

Ryan commented that her team has really been enjoying this time as they are getting a chance to really get to know the parents of their students.

While some of these numbers don’t look the way the district would ultimately like them to look, it is good to note that nationwide, the participation rate for distance learning at this time is a mere 40 percent.

“Our parents are doing a tremendous job in a very difficult time,” Superintendent Dustin Hunt remarked.

The board made the decision to move forward with the preliminary budget as if everything were normal. They know there will probably be changes later on, but they can make adjustments as necessary when those changes come.

Right now they are only doing what is necessary with maintenance in an attempt to keep expenditures down and saving money wherever possible.

A close eye is being kept on SPed spending as those costs are reimbursable.

The board agreed this is the best course to take as the bottom dropping out of oil could be devastating along with COVID-19 issues cutting into revenues. They are also expecting their insurance rates to go up as much as 10 percent.

On a brighter note, however, they are now in a position where they are hoping to be able to add back some of the positions that had to be dropped a few years ago due to budget cuts.


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