Year starts at home for South-Western, but swift shifts among models expected

ALAN FROMAN
afroman@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

South-Western City Schools students will begin the new school year Aug. 27 learning from home, just as they did last spring.

But the district has a revised Remote Learning 2.0 model to start the 2020-21 school year.

The school board approved the district's Responsible Restart South-Western plan with a 5-0 vote Aug. 10.

The plan includes models for providing instruction on 100% remote, face-to-face or blended scenarios.

The board's resolution authorizes Superintendent Bill Wise to shift among delivery models and extracurricular phases based on multiple factors that include information provided by public-health agencies; the Ohio Department of Education; the Ohio High School Athletic Association; local data, such as the Ohio Department of Health's color-coded system, positivity rates and case counts; and student and staff absenteeism.

"We don't anticipate a prolonged period of time to make a transition" from one model to another, Wise said.

"It would take us a couple days to make sure we are able to get the word out, but in general, once the data shows that we're prepared to make the transition, we think by the following week we should be able to make that transition and be able to communicate it through a variety of methods," he said.

The Remote Learning 2.0 model has a number of differences from the distance-learning plan South-Western put together in the spring, Deputy Superintendent David Stewart said.

"We learned a great deal from the spring, and we are applying that to what we do here in the fall," he said.

Teachers will provide daily opportunities for students to interact with them in live, remote meetings, Stewart said.

Students also will be able to access scheduled lessons from their teachers every week, he said.

"What we've heard from our families is that some of them are set up and desire a more predictable and regular live interaction with their teachers," Stewart said.

But other parents have indicated their family's situation would make it difficult for their child to access instruction at certain scheduled times during the normal school day, he said.

"That's why (we have) the blend of both live interactions as well as prerecorded instruction to try to support both types of families," Stewart said.

As in the spring, teachers will be asked to provide independent work for students that would serve as an extension of what occurs in both the live and prerecorded instruction, he said.

Teachers also will set aside time each week during which parents will have direct access to them to ask questions, get more information about their class or receive assistance to help them support their child, Stewart said.

Teachers will use Google Classroom as their primary learning-management system, he said.

The district has asked teachers to post a standardized set of information every day or every week that parents will access via the program.

South-Western has offered training for teachers throughout the summer to help them prepare for a remote learning or blended model, Stewart said. The most recent professional-development academy was for elementary school teachers.

The three days prior to the start of school will be used to provide additional training for teachers, including how to use some of the new technological tools for remote learning and tips for teaching in a remote environment, he said.

One of the major differences between Remote Learning 2.0 and 1.0 is that now the district will provide a device for any student who requests one, Stewart said.

In the spring, South-Western for the most part was able to provide only one computer or other device per household, he said.

"The feedback we got from our community was, in many situations, that simply wasn't enough," Stewart said.

The district again will provide a number of Wi-Fi hot spots for families who do not have internet access at home, he said.

South-Western also offered families an option for their children to virtually attend school online for the full school year.

However, the deadline for enrolling in the Virtual Learning Academy was Aug. 7.

A total of 2,700 students enrolled in the academy, said Sandy Nekoloff, executive director of communications.

The academy's courses could be taught by a South-Western staff member or a teacher outside of the district using a web-based delivery system.

Students who are participating in the academy will be provided a computer to be used for school work only.

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