Diving into Considerations for State Remote Learning Plans
Diving into Considerations for State Remote Learning Plans
As states and higher education programs are beginning to create their plans for phased reopening, many states are creating guideline and leaving it to districts to implement. Though learning decisions are largely left to the districts for the fall, districts must have a plan if it again becomes necessary to close schools due to COVID-19 safety concerns again.
Many districts are looking to use a hybrid learning plan, but all schools should have a remote learning plan. And therein lies some confusion. Remote learning is the plan without a brick and mortar integration; hybrid learning includes both onsite and virtual instruction. Using a blended or hybrid learning plan is not the same as having a back-up in case of a COVID-19 related closure, but it does offer the opportunity to teach learners and educators the expectations of a virtual program.
There are many things to consider when building remote learning plans. Administrators and educators should address these now, before the school year starts so that there is input and a strong understanding around these plans. District should know how:
- Student instructional needs will be determined and documented
- Progress will be monitored
- Schools will determine competency, grant credit and promote students through grades
- The school will document participation and set attendance requirements
- The school will offer professional development activities to teachers
Task forces of superintendents, principals, and teachers all over the country are considering different options for the fall. They are trying to create plans that will be not just flexible but fluid. With the states distributing expectations and districts working on how to realistically implement these plans, there are a number of initiatives up for consideration. Educators have been through crisis instruction and have learned several things. It is now time to move from a mode of assigning work to a world where the goal is providing instruction.
As a result of schools and districts in different states striving to follow the suggested safety protocols outlined by the CDC, the structure of how the return to school in the fall is going to look has many forms. Here are some of the plans that districts are using to meet the guidelines:
- One option is dividing students into two groups, sending one group to school for two days and the other on two separate days, so the school would have fewer students at a time. For example, one group of students could go the classroom Monday to Tuesday and the other group Thursday to Friday, with Wednesday as a cleaning and sanitation day.
- Another is to follow this same design but add a third group of students that attend all five days. These would be students that might struggle with a broken week, need additional supports or simply do not have the capacity to work from home.
- Some states have released their plan in segmented proposals, for example Phase Guidance for Virginia Schools. This current plan would have students in their schools twice weekly and doing synchronous online learning three days each week. Some students with disabilities and some English language learners would attend school more than twice a week.
- Superintendents from districts across the country are exploring traditional classroom alternatives such as holding class in outdoor or open-air spaces, in community centers, gathering halls and whatever other spaces are available for safely implementing social distancing and compensating for small physical classrooms.
- A private school in New Jersey is implementing social distancing by literally removing half the students during the week from the classroom and putting them in other rooms, like the cafeteria, library and unused spaces to work virtually, but remaining physically in the school.
Other concerns include social distancing on school buses, for example. On school buses, students would sit one per seat, every other row, on opposite sides of the bus. Children living together would be able to sit together. Some school districts are considering double bus runs, in which a route would be divided, so drivers would make two trips to transport students from their stops to school.
Lunchrooms and hallways during high school class changes have also been concerns, as have masks with small children. Some school systems are considering requiring all students age 10 and older to wear a cloth face covering. Other districts and schools are encouraging parents of students younger than 10 to ask their children to wear masks if parents conclude that it is developmentally appropriate for their particular children. Faculty, staff and visitors will be required to wear face coverings, unless it poses individual health risks according to CDC guidelines. Additionally, students will be strongly encouraged to wear face coverings, and will be required to do so when social distancing cannot be maintained.
Educators from the Edmentum Network made a few suggestions for teachers preparing for these new expectations in remote learning:
“Two to three days of orientation, which really helped our students get started on the right foot. They learned right away to attend live sessions and to respond to messages and such, so they were set to find success as they worked through their courses.”
- Stephanie Daggs, EdOptions Academy Virtual Teacher
“We have an in-house virtual schools but are attempting to be even more flexible. One idea is designating a teacher per department/grade level with one prep for those students. I am a proponent of using classroom software that can easily flex for online and hybrid learning. Allow students to come when they can and stay home when they need to. The thought is many would prefer hybrid. Home all the time is too challenging for many reasons, but flexibility is key.”
- Betsy Jeffries Springer, MI
The focus right now should be in strengthening remote learning. It feels naïve to think that schools will remain untouched, nor should we. This is an opportunity to rethink how we teach, using the best of what we are learning.