Teachers started pre planning yesterday and students are back to school 100% virtually on Monday. The following are my takeaways from the administration’s latest update.
100% virtual or not at all – The administration and most of the board seem firm that all schoolhouse work must be done virtually. I pointed out that many of the administrators are working from their school district offices. I asked that teachers be given the same opportunity if they would prefer to work from their classroom. I’ve heard from a number of teachers that would like to have that option because it is more conducive for them to work from their classroom than from home. While my suggestion was met with some incredulity from some members of the board, the administration said they would contemplate whether or not they will give teachers the option of going back into the classroom in extreme cases. It seems to me that teachers and staff would be able to socially distance effectively in a school building without students.
Optimizing staff utilization – “Re-imagine job assignments in the virtual world”, says Regional Superintendent Triscilla Weaver. Schoolhouse resources are being realigned to provide virtual education services. In addition to working with teachers, para-professionals will be doing virtual pull out sessions with students, leading study groups, etc.
Numerous employees will spend their time reaching out to students in an attempt to get them to engage virtually. Attendance secretaries who would normally work on attendance within the building will now be calling homes to encourage virtual attendance.
Sports – DeKalb Schools has already cancelled Fall middle school sports. For varsity sports, the administration is taking their cues from GHSA and the county Board of Health who currently recommend playing games. The GHSA already delayed the start of varsity sports by 2 weeks. Big 10 college football just cancelled the 2020 season. A North Fulton high school athlete just lost both parents to COVID-19.
Virtual Remote Learning Expectations
The administration heard loud and clear from teachers and parents the desire to have a structured schedule. Every student should expect to be engaged during the 7:45 to 1:50 timeframe. The principals were given sample baseline schedules for their grade bands. They modified the schedules to accommodate the needs of their community and submitted their customized schedules to the regional superintendent.
On or around the virtual Open House, when students receive their schedules, parents and students should receive their school’s customized schedule that will look like the sample below.
Student attendance will be taken, but the school will just be looking for signs of participation. In addition to online participation in virtual classes, the school will be looking for students who login to the system or engage their teachers through email or turning in homework.
Teachers will share specifics with students and families regarding classroom grading procedures and expectations. Grading categories will include formative and diagnostic assessments, assessment tasks (skills & homework), classwork (guided, independent & group practice), quizzes, tests and projects. The administration is still working out the specific details.
Chromebooks & Hotspots
The school district currently has enough laptops for 80% of the student population. The school district recently purchased 28,000 new Chromebooks. Due to high demand for laptops these days, the new laptops will not be ready until September at the earliest. In the meantime, students without devices are encouraged to use their own devices.
The school district has currently distributed roughly 8,000 internet hotspots. Connectivity needs are being assessed by surveys and the local school.
Students without devices and/or connectivity will be allowed to work asynchronously. If possible, they can download lesson assignment on their schedule. If necessary, students can pick up paper packets from school.