Schools prepare for remote learning during COVID-19 crisis.

April 3, 2020

Schools prepare for remote learning during COVID-19 crisis.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

Oceana County school districts are examining students’ access to WiFi and devices at home as school officials prepare for non face-to-face instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

School buildings are closed for the remainder of the school year following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s order issued Thursday, April 2.

HESPERIA

Hesperia Community Schools Superintendent Vaughn White said that “at least 50 percent or more” of his district’s student population does not have access to both WiFi and devices.

Although plans are in the early stages, students that require paper packets could receive them during meal distribution events. “We’re just developing the plan,” White said, but it’s likely that instruction will involve a “combination of online and packet learning.”

“Lunch distribution may be the way or we could send (the packets) in the mail,” the school leader said.

Hesperia is a part of the Newaygo County Regional Educational Service Agency, which plans to launch a “continuous learning plan” by April 20, White said. The Hesperia district is located in Newaygo County but serves students who live in both Newaygo and Oceana counties.

“We have federal and legal requirements to ensure that we’re equitably serving all students,” said White in a NCRESA letter. “An instructional plan will be implemented to continue learning opportunities for all students.”

“Some schools will also be making curriculum packets available in conjunction with meal sites and delivery programs for families who might not have access to Internet or a home printer,” the NCRESA letter states. “Free learning materials for each grade will also be available through www.ncresa.org/learn.”

“We will be challenged to develop a plan to educate your children while they are safe at home,” White stated in a letter to parents. “As I am speaking, I know I am far from answering the many questions you have. My intent is to give you confidence that we will develop a plan moving forward that will eventually answer those questions. This will take some time.”

“Digital poverty is high among students in Newaygo County. Each Newaygo County school surveyed families on if they have access to the Internet and/or usable devices at home. Approximately 48 percent of the students do not have access to Internet that can support online learning, and 41 percent do not have a tech device. A moment like this puts the structural deficiency that we have in Newaygo County in a spotlight. Our vulnerable students become more vulnerable with limited access to food, health and virtual learning opportunities,” said Dr. Lori Tubbergen Clark, NCRESA Superintendent.

“Students will not receive grades or assessments for the online learning,” White said. “All students who were on track to be promoted to the next grade or graduate will still do so. Students will not be penalized in any way if they are unable to complete assignments due to lack of resources.”

PENTWATER

Pentwater Public School Superintendent Scott Karaptian said he has sent out a survey to parents in his district which has revealed that roughly 30 percent of his students do not have WiFi access at home.

“I am meeting with staff next week to put together a plan to meet the needs of our students.” Karaptian said. Online learning would be easier to attain at the secondary level, because all high and middle school students received Chromebooks from the district that they take home. Upper elementary students also received Chromebooks and early elementary students have Kindle Fires that they may be allowed to take home in light of the situation. Continued distribution of paper packets is “yet to be determined,” he said. Paperwork could be hand delivered or sent via US mail.

“We will ensure they get what they need,” he said.

“The Governor has also asked each school district and its staff to create a Continuation of Learning to provide instructional materials, resources and opportunities for students to continue their education during this ordered school closure,” Karapatian states in a letter to parents Thursday. “Our staff and administration will be hosting virtual meetings next week to to discuss and create a Continuation of Learning framework and a Remote Learning Plan to support our students and their families.”

The Governor’s order requires that plans must be submitted to educational service districts by April 28, Karaptian said.

“Please know that our staff is working to meet the needs of every child,” the superintendent said. “This includes developing a plan to support students requiring intervention, as well as students with special education Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).”

“Please know that our administration and staff have been working nonstop to meet the needs of our students and families and we will continue to do so throughout the duration of this suspension of operations and normal activities,” he said.

HART

“The buildings are working on a plan for the rest of the school year,” states Hart Public Schools Superintendent Mark Platt in a Facebook post Thursday. “One of the requirements for us is to submit a plan to the WSESD (West Shore Educational Service District), and we will move extremely fast to submit the plan.

“Any academic activities that we have been doing during the past week were to provide something to you until we had further clarification from the state,” Platt said. “Our official plan will be more robust than what we are currently providing. I will be sending the community a google survey by tomorrow to our parents. The survey will be tallying responses, so we can get a better understanding of your perspective of educational needs. This is unchartered territory for everyone, and I think it is safe to assume stress is higher than normal. Ideally, I want for us to create a plan that doesn’t add more stress for you.”

SHELBY

“Currently, we are working to determine what education might look like for the rest of the school year,” said Shelby Public Schools Superintendent Tim Reeves in a letter to parents Wednesday. “In general, the focus for Shelby schools will be universal access for our students. For many, that will mean our staff will provide online learning resources to students and their families. For others, who may not have access to Internet, or for whom their students are too young to learn online, we will provide printed instructional materials and recommended resources for parents to help with their student(s)’ education.

“To learn more about instructional resources we will provide your students, we may be communicating with you to learn about your access to technology devices and Internet access,” said Reeves. “In addition, we want to know how your students are doing.

“Please know that our staff will work to tailor these materials to the needs of each child as best we can,” said the Shelby school leader. “Shelby schools is working with other districts within West Shore ESD to provide a uniform level of instruction for each child during this time. Your families are on our hearts and minds and our goal is to support you as best we can.”

Reeves said he is hoping to send a letter to parents next week that outlines the district’s distance learning plan.

WALKERVILLE

“As I’m sure you are aware, the governor today ordered schools to close for the remainder of the school year to ensure the continued safety of students and their families as this contagious virus continues to spread and threaten the health of us all,” said Walkerville Public Schools Superintendent Thomas Langdon in a Facebook post Thursday.

“The governor also asked that every school district and its staff provide instructional materials and opportunities for students to continue their education during this crisis. For many, this will mean our staff will provide online learning resources to students and their families. For others, who may not have access to the internet, or for whom their students are too young to learn online, we will provide printed instructional materials and recommended resources for parents to help with their student(s)’ education.

“Please know that our staff is working to tailor these materials to the needs of each child, and our district is working with the other districts within West Shore ESD to provide a uniform level of instruction for each child during this time.

“We know you may have other questions regarding your students’ education. We are working closely with West Shore ESD, with the Michigan Department of Education, and with Gov. Whitmer’s office to learn what we are allowed to do under the Governor’s executive orders to meet your needs.”

“Please know our staff has been working nonstop to meet the needs of their students and our families, and will continue to do so throughout the duration of this suspension of normal school operations and activities,” Langdon said. “Working together, with our teachers, our support staff and with our caring and supportive
parents, we can continue our children’s education, we can give them the support and guidance they need, and we can ensure their safety, and the safety our families and our community.”

This story is copyrighted © 2020, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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