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Mt. Pleasant preschool enrollment drops for 2020-2021 school year

MT. PLEASANT — The Mt. Pleasant Community School District saw fewer students enroll in its preschool program for the 2020-2021 school year.

At a school board meeting on Monday evening, Kathleen Gavin, director of instruction, gave an update on changes the district has made to the preschool program.

Gavin reported the district saw about 100 to 110 preschoolers enrolled the previous year, and 79 enrolled in the current year. The young students began attending school following the Labor Day weekend.

“We had parents, up until that day, call us and say, ‘You know what, I’ll wait until second semester,’ or ‘Since this isn’t a mandatory thing with the state, we’re not sending our student,’” Gavin explained.

The district continues to have two sections of developmental preschool and six general education sections. With lower enrollment, each section has 15 or fewer students.

While preschoolers do not usually take buses, Gavin said the district decided to transport 11 Salem students to Van Allen for preschool.

“That one section of [Salem] preschool took an entire classroom, and if we did need to go to hybrid or we did need to have a quarantine room or an extra space, preschool took that up,” Gavin said of the decision.

Following her report on the preschool program, board member Josh Maher asked for an update on the remote learning model. Maher said he was hearing from teachers who said they were spending a large amount of time outside of the classroom as well as from parents who were critical of the curriculum.

Both Gavin and Superintendent John Henriksen said the online model still is new to the district and has been a “learning process.”

“I won’t say it’s smooth sailing because it’s not our natural state. It’s going OK,” Gavin said.

Gavin added there is a major difference between face-to-face learning and online learning.

“What that looks like isn’t minute-for-minute in a seat and then minute-for-minute in front of a screen … this environment doesn’t look like a classroom,” she said.

During the public comment section of the meeting, district parent Brant Knudsen asked the board about their policy for eliminating masks when it is safe to do so. Knudsen said he emailed a member of the board and was told masks would not longer be required when the state fell to a 3 percent positivity rate. When Knudsen reached out to officials from the state, including those from the governor’s office, they “had not heard of the 3 percent” stipulation.

“We have policies in place to go to hybrid learning or even go to a complete online learning system. I just ask the school board what would be our policy to remove masks when that would be necessary,” he said.