Q&A: Dr. Mark Miles Discusses RSD COVID-19 Action
Superintendent Dr. Mark Miles sent a message to the RSD community March 15 concerning the decision to close RSD schools, along with other major school districts in St. Louis County and CitY. Dr. Miles reflected on the district’s actions prior to and following the announcement.
Q: When did RSD consider closing schools or finding new options for students?
A: Once the headlines began to fill with coronavirus information, we began preparing for several weeks. A group of superintendents in St. Louis County, St. Louis City and the Archdiocese of St. Louis gathered to consider the guidance from officials from the St. Louis Department of Public Health. Once we obtained the latest information, we decided as a group to close schools in the area until April 3.
Q: What were concerns amongst area superintendents, especially concerning student services?
A: The biggest consideration was of the health of our students and staff in the entire community. We thought this was the proper step to take as we worry about our students and the continuity of educational services. The provision of resources and online education certainly will not replicate the daily classroom experience for our students. We also worried about students who need access to food, nutrition and social-emotional and mental health services, and we began working with a variety of social services agencies around the area to continue to provide that.
Q: Why did RSD decide to utilize online teaching as some area school districts didn’t?
A: While we’ve had to rapidly revise and modify some of our processes, we want to do our very best to continue to provide educational resources and services to our students. We think that is the right thing to do for our students and educational community.
Q: What insight or information could you offer to those concerned about the curriculum?
A: I think our staff members are going to do their best to continue to provide knowledge and experience to students. This is a challenging situation for all of us, and this situation is not unique to RSD. That’s partly why we are trying to provide online education so our students can remain and engaged to an extent.
Q: Can you offer any information about how the online instruction will operate?
A: Well, it’s still developing and will continue to develop over the next few weeks. We are going to ask our teachers to remain in contact and provide information on essential course outcomes. We will ask teachers to send out weekly information, likely via email, regarding weekly activities, due dates and collecting assessments electronically. For technology, schools will be using Canvas, Google Classroom and an app called Zoom. Some of those resources we will continue to explore and these processes will change and evolve.
Q: Is the district prepared to continue using online or remote teaching beyond April?
A: We will continue to gather feedback from students, staff and parents beginning next week about how things are going. I think we do need to be prepared for extension beyond April 3.
Q: Will Rockwood have to meet new educational or instructional requirements?
A: We’ve been in contact with officials from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, who governs practices and processes across the state of Missouri. We are hoping there will be some waivers granted as well as flexibility on how we approach this process. There are no guarantees yet, but we are in communication with them as well. Our Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven has been a strong advocate for us, so we will be looking towards her and other area supervisors to provide ambiguity for us as well.
Editor’s Note: The Missouri Commissioner of Education Margie Vandeven announced Thursday, March 19, that Missouri will cancel statewide required assessments for this year.
Q: Is RSD working on providing financial assistance to teachers, staff or bus drivers?
A: We convened an emergency meeting of the Board of Education yesterday morning. The Board moved for our daily work processes to change. The Board [said] that during the closure, our staff will continue to receive compensation benefits based on their regularly scheduled work days. We also have had building administrators work with specific employee groups regarding their expectation for work requirements.
Q: Overall, what is your expectation or desire of students and staff going forward?
A: We ask for everyone’s patience, flexibility and understanding as we go through this process. It is going to take extraordinary efforts on the part of all of us, and I hope we’re all going to rise to this challenge. We have to do what we can and do what you can control in this difficult time.
Lauren Pickett, junior, is a staff reporter for the Messenger. She is a member of Student Council as well as Academic and Cultural Club. In her free time,...