Roswell Independent School District’s online learning component for the 2020-21 school year is still under development, but two officials offered some insight Friday to the Roswell Daily Record on how it will work.
Thursday’s announcement by the governor pushing back in-person instruction until at least after Labor Day has caused a slight change in plans for RISD.
“Our plan was to launch an online enrollment on our website. We had it all ready to push the button and watch for our families to start enrolling,” said Jennifer Cole, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
This week, principals and school counselors will be contacting families to help explain online learning and the online enrollment will be launched later, Cole said.
After Labor Day, Sept. 7, the state will assess when students can return to the classroom based on data about the spread of the coronavirus. Elementary students will be allowed back first, followed by middle school and then high school students.
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At that point, the hybrid model will be in effect, with students at each school divided into two groups alphabetically. Group A will attend classes at their schools on Mondays and Tuesdays and Group B on Thursdays and Fridays, with remote learning on the other days.
However, RISD is also offering a Group C — a 100% remote learning option called Roswell Schools Online Academy.
While there will be some similarities to the remote learning that was put together last spring, RISD officials said the at-home learning this year will be improved for both the hybrid model and the Online Academy.
“We were really just trying to keep learning happening last year,” Cole said.
“Now we’ve had time to plan, we’ve had time to really develop our instructional pacing. We’ve had time to vet out some of the high-quality digital opportunities for our students. It will be just a very systematic and consistent process that I hope will be much better communicated,” she said.
The district will be using Canvas Learning Management Program as its main online learning system.
“Teachers will be able to put their content into that. Parents will be able to access that and teachers will be providing lessons a week at a glance” for parents to see, Cole said.
Canvas will be able to incorporate other learning management programs such as Google Classroom, Seesaw and Apex Learning the district has been using, as well as some new ones directed at literacy and science, technology, engineering and mathematics curriculum.
The district will offer a “Parent University” of online tutorials about the programs. Information on registering for those tutorials will be posted on the RISD website and Facebook page when available.
The curriculum chosen by the district is of high-quality, Cole said.
“It’s not just like a curriculum that a parent can Google and get off the internet,” she said.
“There’s an evidence-base behind it and it’ll be a really, very robust, engaging curriculum,” she said.
“And everything won’t be online. There will be lots of teacher-directed learning activities that will occur, so it’s not just children sitting in front of the computer all the time,” she said.
Teams are developing content based on grade levels, and beginning in early August, teachers will be offered professional development on the curriculum, Cole said.
“We feel like we have all the tools we need, and now it’s just sharing the information with our parents and our teachers, giving them the professional development and support that they need,” she said.
The biggest difference in online learning this year will be at the secondary level, where two different models will be used. Students opting for the Online Academy will use Apex Learning curriculum. High school students in the hybrid model will use the Canvas system along with other grades.
RISD has used Apex in previous years as a support system for students to earn credits they needed.
“It is kind of a self-paced program,” Cole said.
Certified RISD teachers will be leading the courses.
“What’s nice about it is that it gives the kids assessments,” Superintendent Mike Gottlieb said. If they get a poor assessment, they have a chance to go back and review the lesson and redo it.
“If they’re quick, it moves quicker with them,” he said.
Cole said the district would like students, especially those at the secondary level, to commit to the Online Academy for an entire nine-week quarter and preferably for a whole semester.
“What becomes very scary for us is when kids want to go back and forth from one learning system to another, because in high school, we’re looking at credit acquisition. When you hop back and forth between courses, it’s very hard to keep track of those credits and then that impacts graduation,” she said.
The Apex curriculum offers Advanced Placement courses, SAT preparation courses, tutorials and guides, Cole said.
Elementary students will have the option of the Online Academy, as well, but Cole said the district hopes parents of younger students will opt for the hybrid model when that’s allowed.
“Our hope is that they come back to school traditionally because we know that’s the best for them. That’s where the learning happens,” she said.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or email@example.com.
To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.