Years of training eases shift to online instruction during coronavirus closures

Teachers will divide time between creating content and connecting with students
By: | March 20, 2020
Online learning will come more naturally to students in North Carolina's Dare County Schools because they have been engaged in digital education for enrichment and dual-enrollment for the last few years.Online learning will come more naturally to students in North Carolina's Dare County Schools because they have been engaged in digital education for enrichment and dual-enrollment for the last few years.

The shift online for Dare County Schools, which covers North Carolina’s Outer Banks, has gone more smoothly thanks to a few years of training teachers in online instruction, says Keith Parker, the digital communications and middle school director.

The district has a 1-to-1 Chromebook initiative for grades 3-12, with many older students already taking online courses, including some in dual-enrollment programs.

Younger children have been taking online courses for supplemental enrichment, so teachers and students are pretty comfortable using different learning management systems, including Google Classroom and Canvas, Parker says.

Educators are now working to supply all K-2 students with an iPad for distance learning, and will start online education on Monday.

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Teachers will divide their days between creating content and connecting with students and families via videoconference, text message, Google Hangouts, phone calls and other platforms.

“Our students are working at their own pace, there is no daily time requirement,” Parker says. “The expectation is they’ll complete assignments and teachers will be available to support them on an ongoing basis.”

Charter Communications has offered to install and provide 60 days of free Spectrum internet to the homes of students who don’ have service. The district also has purchased Verizon hotspots for some students.

“We’re well-positioned for every kid to have a device and to connect every kid to the internet,” Parker says. “If anything, this is a jumpstart to our digital teaching and learning and we’ll use a lot of these strategies when we come back into face-to-face sessions.”

COVID-19 cancels all federal testing

The Trump Administration on Friday waived all federal standardized testing requirements for K-12 because many schools will be closed during testing season, The Washington Post reported.

“The Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing requirements very importantly for students in elementary through high school for the current year,” Trump said at his daily briefing, according to The Post. “They’ve been through a lot. They’ve been going back and forth. Schools open. Schools not open. I think a lot of the students will be extremely happy. Some probably not. The ones that work hard, maybe not.”

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said states can request a waiver from the requirement that testing data be used in accountability systems, The Post reported.

Learning continues during coronavirus closures

Kansas this week became the first state to close all school buildings for the remainder of the school year. And a state task force on Thursday issued guidelines on how learning will continue in the state.

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Districts can teach online, send home packets or, in rural areas, conduct some small in-person classes, The Kansas City Star reported.

State graduation requirements remain the same, but districts with higher standards could choose to lower them this year, according to The Kansas City Star.

The Kansas City Star also reported that the task force also made the recommendations for daily instruction time:

  • K-1: 45 minutes, conducted in 5- to 10-minute spans
  • 2-4: 60 minutes, conducted in 10- to 15-minute spans
  • 5-6: 90 minutes, conducted in 20-minute spans
  • 6-12: 3 hours, with each class lasting 30 minutes

Meanwhile, officials in Oregon have decided not to teach online because schools are not prepared to support special education students, kids who speak English as a second language, or students who lack computers or internet access, The Oregonian reported.

“Protecting student rights has to be front and center during the conversation about distance learning,” Marc Siegel, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Education, told The Oregonian. “You cannot open a brick-and-mortar school in Oregon unless it is accessible to every student in their school district. The same rules apply to an online school.”

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