GREEN RIVER — Sweetwater County School District No. 2 is offering virtual learning options for students amid the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic to alleviate parent and family nervousness.
Greg Figenser, SCSD No. 2 Curriculum Director, discussed the remote options the school district will be offering to students, all grades, K-12.
“We’re paying attention to the information we received in a parent survey and the nervousness many of our parents feel about having their kids in a school, in close-quarters,” Figenser said. “We created the option for distance learning in order to meet the need our parents have shown us we have in our system.”
The distance learning options look a bit different for the elementary, middle, and high schools. Elementary schools will have what the district is calling “remote learning”, while the middle and high schools will have a classroom-based virtual learning.
K-5 Remote Learning
Students from each elementary school will have the option of remote learning. This is where the kids will be able to participate in classes in real-time through a virtual classroom with classmates and a teacher. They will be conducted much like a Google Meets or Zoom meeting.
There will be one teacher assigned to teach one grade across the entire district. This means the virtual classes will be mixed with students from all the district’s elementary schools.
“A teacher might work at Harrison, but they’re taking the virtual kids from every school in that grade level. However, those kids are still enrolled in their home school,” Figenser said.
Those teachers will also be available after school to talk to parents or have small groups for additional instruction.
Teachers will have a camera and a microphone and will have the ability to move around a classroom to conduct the remote classes.
The remote learning option allows students to ask questions, receive help, and communicate with classmates and their teacher in real-time as if they were in the actual classroom.
“We wanted to make this more of a broader option for the district, but when we tried to order what we needed to make this happen, everything across the country that’s technolgy-based is back ordered. We couldn’t get it,” Figenser said.
Figenser said the district ordered different technology materials in March and April and still have not seen them. To provide the younger kids with a more interactive learning environment, the district decided to dedicate the technology they already had in their possession to the K-5 classes.
“We had at least enough materials in district to outfit our elementary schools,” he said.
Grades 6-12 Virtual Learning
For the middle school and high school students, the online option is being called, “classroom-based virtual learning”. This option will consists of online courses that students can participate in at home, however, it is not as interactive as the elementary remote learning.
Teachers of record will be used to assist in the learning and provide grades.
For the middle school, the district is looking at assigning one teacher per subject to assist in the online courses and providing some lessons that include the district’s priority standards.
“We are looking at a little bit more instruction that would be tied to the the individual lessons at the middle school,” Figenser said.
The district is using the Edmentum Courseware, which is a set of online courses that have been approved by the state.
“We feel very comfortable in using this as an option for our kids,” Figenser said.
The online courses will go hand-in-hand with the priority standards the district has set up to ensure all parties understand exactly what students are responsible for learning.
“We are making sure that all our resources in the classroom-based virtual setting are tied to those priority standards, so our parents will know exactly what we want kids, either on site or off site, to master,” Figenser said.
The difference between the middle school and high school classroom-based virtual learning, is that the high school will be more self-paced. There will be less direct instruction from teachers at the high school level. Figenser said the high school has already been using teachers of record for several years, so they are well-acquainted with the practice.
The high school will use the same Edmentum Courseware, however, the district has added over 100 virtual courses.
“We make sure that we match the schedule that a student has offsite as closely as we can if they’re onsite,” Figenser said.
There will be limited options for electives, as several of them simply cannot be done from home. The middle school will have three elective options, whereas the high school will have quite a bit more.
“We will have a good selection,” Figenser said.
As of Friday, August 7, the district has received just shy of 110 applications for virtual learning. This number is updated every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The district continues to see more applications each day.
The virtual learning options have a nine-week minimum commitment, or the length of a quarter. At the end of the nine weeks, parents will have the option to reassess and decide if they want to continue the distance learning or not.
If a parent sends their kid to school at first and then decides they are no longer comfortable with the school setting, the parent can call the school and the student will most likely be moved to distance learning. However, it will become more difficult to switch from onsite to offsite learning as the quarter and semester progresses.
“It’s not designed to pop in and out of, it’s really designed to make sure classroom teachers know their numbers and that we know how many kids we have in distance learning so we can staff it effectively,” Figenser said.
The district will be providing Chromebooks, so all the students need is a good internet connection to do the online options.
“The students are still part of us, they are still in our system,” Figenser said.
How to Sign Up for Virtual Learning
If you’re interested in virtual learning, visit the SCSD No.2 website, and click on the 2020/21 Distance Learning Contract.
After filling out the contract, parents will be contacted by the principal of their child’s school.
“Principals of every building follow up with the parents of the kids from their school, and make sure they feel comfortable with the expectations or see if there was any misunderstandings, and the parents have an opportunity to check in at that time,” Figenser said.
School will be starting on Wednesday, August 19.