Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record
A math lesson using COVID-19 mortality rates included in Mesa Middle School’s Continuous Learning lessons will be replaced, officials with Roswell Independent School District said Tuesday.
As RISD prepares to launch its Continuous Learning Plan on Monday, materials are being made available to students this week. Lesson packets available through the Mesa Middle School website and hard copies distributed to families included a seventh-grade math lesson that had one district patron upset enough to contact the school and the Roswell Daily Record by email.
Jan Wilson said she was outraged at the lessons included in the packet for her daughter-in-law’s niece, a seventh-grader at Mesa.
She said the girl, whom she calls her grand-niece, suffers from some anxiety due to previously existing health concerns in her immediate family.
Wilson emailed her concerns along with pictures of the lessons to Julie Whitecap in the RISD superintendent’s office and Carolyn Reese in Curriculum and Instruction, as well as to the Daily Record.
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“I was outraged,” she told the Daily Record in a phone interview. “These are kids who are at an age where they’re trying to figure themselves out. If there’s going to be talk about COVID-19, it should a serious conversation with the parents. The schools have no business getting involved in that, let alone lessening the seriousness by turning it into math problems.”
Wilson said she had received a call from Mesa Principal Marcos Franco just prior to talking with the Daily Record, but had been unable to reach him when she called back.
Franco and Jennifer Cole, interim assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said they did want to speak to her and discuss the planning from the perspective of the school.
“We’ll be contacting her because we want to keep that communication. We want our parents’ feedback, and I just want to reiterate, we want to do the very best for our kids and families,” Cole said.
Franco said the school will be contacting parents through its robocall system to let them know the lesson will be voided and a new one will be sent out this week. He said he had received no other complaints about the lesson.
The packet’s lessons include text on the bubonic plague that swept through Europe in the 14th century, which discusses how scientists researched its method of spread and death rates. Students then were to answer multiple-choice and discussion questions on the article.
The lesson then includes an undated and uncredited news article on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham alerting President Donald Trump about spikes in coronavirus cases on the Navajo Nation, saying the virus could “wipe out” some tribal nations. Text in the article suggests it was from ABC news.
The lesson following that article is titled “COVID 19 Mortality Rate” and lists as a student goal “I can divide rational numbers.”
“Today you will explore representation of the COVID-19 Mortality Rate data combined into one table,” a highlighted sentence at the top of the page said.
The lesson then gave the students instructions to research COVID-19 cases for that day for the United States, New Mexico and the Navajo Nation “and the known number of dead” for each.
Students were then to write a ratio for each group to determine the mortality rate and create a table that includes the mortality rate for each using a decimal or percentage.
It then gives an example using data from April 2 to demonstrate how to calculate the ratio and mortality rate.
“Explain what the numbers mean for the infected populations,” the instructions say.
A bonus question encourages students to explain how the mortality rates compare to each other.
“What would make anybody think that this is something we should put out there to seventh graders in terms of mortality rates and stuff like that? Oh my God, what were they thinking?” Wilson said.
Franco said the lesson had been reviewed by him and two assistant principals before being included in the packet. The assistant principals worked directly with the teacher teams in creating the packets.
He and Cole noted that RISD staff are working under unprecedented conditions to create lessons for students during the learning-from-home process.
“Unfortunately because of the timeline we’d had and dealing with moving into the virtual world, we were having to learn something relatively new for a lot of people,” Franco said.
“This is a different way of planning for us,” Cole said. “This was us looking at the essential learning and also trying to focus on the social-emotional wellness. So while there is a vetting process, it’s not as extensive as it would be in a normal world.”
The lesson was to focus more on students’ social-emotional wellness than the actual mortality rates, Franco said.
“It wasn’t brought up to begin to use the actual mortality rate. It was more on how do we deal with what’s going on, providing lessons that involve how we deal with ourselves and our safety with other people if we have to venture out,” he said.
“This is a topic that is very touchy. We understand that,” Interim Superintendent Mike Gottlieb said. “I’m sure the teachers were trying to capture the attention of what’s going on.”
“We weren’t meaning to do harm to the students. It’s just something that changed the way teaching is done so rapidly without us having time to adjust. Would this be a normal lesson that we would do? Probably not, involving what we’re dealing with now,” Franco said.
“I think that it’s a learning experience for us and we certainly understand where the parent’s coming from, absolutely,” Cole said.
“It’s something for us to very aware of and work through, moving forward. There’s going to be these kinds of bumps in the road and we want to do the very best thing for our kids and our families,” she said.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or firstname.lastname@example.org.