School Board votes against adding asynchronous learning days Dec. 22-23

Published 5:31 pm Monday, December 20, 2021

RESERVE — During a special meeting held Monday at the Godchaux Grammar cafeteria, the St. John the Baptist Parish School Board voted against adding December 22-23 as asynchronous learning days to the 2021-2022 school calendar.

Asynchronous learning days, which involve students working on assignments independently at home, are a way for local school districts to address loss of classroom instructional minutes from Hurricane Ida closures.

District Curriculum Facilitator Blaine Robertson said approximately 500 St. John Public Schools employees responded to a survey about adding December 22-23 as asynchronous learning days. Of the 497 respondents, 432, or roughly 87%, were in favor.

Speaking on behalf of the St. John Association of Educators, Derron Cook said educators have been engaged in preparing educational material to cover four days of asynchronous learning.

“SJAE definitely approves of this,” Cook said.

However, the St. John School Board did not voice the same support for the proposed calendar revision. Board member Debbie Schum expressed that adding two more asynchronous learning days this week would not only be an inconvenience to families, but also a disservice to students’ educational needs.

“The calendar that was approved was the one parents have, so if you had to asynchronous days that were holidays on the calendar, they won’t be knowing about this until today. But the real problem I have is that we just got our school performance scores back that very much indicated that in-person learning is the best way to help improve our scores,” Schum said.

While St. John Parish Schools will maintain its 2019 “C” rating due to COVID-19 circumstances, the simulated District Performance Score released this month showed a decline from 67.7 to 59.7 points.

Superintendent Dr. Lynett Hookfin said performance deficits were linked with virtual learning, and students who attended class in-person had better academic outcomes.

Schum added, “If we are going to add minutes, then we need to add in-person learning, not asynchronous.”

Schum, School Board President Nia Mitchell-Williams, and School Board members Gerald Keller and Keith Jones voted against adding the asynchronous days, while Board members Clarence Triche and Sherry DeFrancesch voted in favor. With five Board members absent during the special meeting, the motion failed.