Thank goodness Aberdeen is on a block schedule, with students taking four courses each quarter. Parents like me who sign their kids up to start the coronavirus year taking online courses are locked in for just nine weeks and get to re-evaluate whether it’s safe to send their kids back to school to learn from their local teachers in person in October. In districts like Belle Fourche, parents who choose the safe and sensible online option are locked in for much longer:
The one kicker for the virtual instruction method is those who choose to utilize the modus must commit to completing an entire term prior to returning to face-to-face instruction. So, for grades K-8, that would be a trimester, for grades 9-12, a semester [Lacey Peterson, “Belle Fourche Approves Return-to-School Plan: School Beginning a Week Later, Virtual Learning Alternative Optional,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2020.07.29].
The most important principle in any school’s coronavirus response plan is flexibility. (That’s why Kristi Noem is so bad at this, as her visionless faux conservatism causes her to maintain a death grip on the status quo and argue against any big change or new investment in adaptations.) Aberdeen’s long-standing block schedule seems to be a good coronavirus adaptation. Parents can try out the online model for the first nine weeks on just four classes. If Aberdeen doesn’t see a surge in cases, and if the school district offers more reliable public health protections and metrics for its response to outbreaks, parents can choose to send their kids back to the classroom for a new batch of classes in October instead of having to wait, as Belle Fourche high schoolers will, until after Christmas. If Aberdeen’s health precautions don’t pan out, parents in the block schedule can switch to online learning sooner, with less disruption to their children’s studies.