Southwick schools to fill remote learning specials position

Fully remote students at Powder Mill have not had live specials instruction all year

SOUTHWICK – A Southwick parent is hopeful that her fully remote children will receive equal instruction for specials very soon.

Kelly Clendenin started a petition to receive live teaching for specials, which has not been offered at Powder Mill School since the current school year began.

Superintendent Jennifer C. Willard said Tuesday that Clendenin’s children, and other fully remote students at Powder Mill, will be offered a Zoom for specials once a position is filled.

“We posted the position for a specials teacher for our full remote students through the end of the year,” Willard said. “This is something we have been working on, but it takes time.”

Willard said at the start of the year, the state budget was still a moving target and the district made some cuts, which meant there was no specials teacher designated for remote students.

Clendenin said she chose fully remote learning for her children when Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional Schools could not accommodate her child’s need for more mask breaks due to a medical condition. She said she is happy she made the decision to keep her children home and safe, however, she said she did not realize they would not get the same instruction opportunities as their classmates who are in the hybrid learning model.

“Full remote students do not have live instruction for specials, but the hybrid students do,” Clendenin said.

Hybrid model learning includes two days of specials via Zoom and two days of offline specials assignments. Clendenin said there is no option for live specials for remote students and her children are falling behind their peers because they are struggling to get through some of the lessons without a teacher.

Willard said this year has been difficult all around and she and Powder Mill Principal have been hoping to hire another teacher specifically for this position.

“When Ms. Clendenin brought it up again in early January, Mrs. Carrier and I began working the numbers and I am happy we have posted for the position,” Willard said.

Clendenin said she just wants an even playing field.

“I want my children – and all remote students – to have the same opportunities as their classmates,” she said. “They have been able to have specials teachers for Woodland students, but why not Powder Mill?”

Willard said part of the issue has been providing contractual planning time for teachers.

“Our specials teachers provide that prep time and we have not been able to dedicate a teacher for remote specials,” she said.

Clendenin argued that is not an excuse.

“If our children were in-person they would have to make the time and space for them,” she said. “Just because they are fully remote does not mean they are not counted as part of our school district.”

Willard said it will still take some time to attract teachers, interview candidates and hire someone, but she is optimistic that Powder Mill’s full remote students will have live Zoom instruction in the coming weeks.

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