Lansing schools will teach students online this fall. Here’s what we know about the plans. – Lansing State Journal - Freelance Rack

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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Lansing schools will teach students online this fall. Here’s what we know about the plans. – Lansing State Journal

LANSING — Lansing School District students won’t be sitting in a classroom at least until November as officials continue planning for online instruction while COVID-19 spreads.

Administrators unveiled the “screen-to-screen” online instruction plan at the Lansing School District Board of Education virtual meeting Thursday. They plan to instruct students online for the first marking period, or August 31 to Nov. 6.

Instructors, parents and stakeholders will have opportunities to review the draft plans next week before the school board votes on the plans at an Aug. 6 meeting. Once approved, the plans will be sent to the Ingham Intermediate School District.

Here’s what we know about the plans so far.

Attendance and schoolwork

Attendance and schoolwork will be mandatory under the school district’s plan for next fall.

Students will check into their online courses each school day. They’ll have access to online resources and will experience classes as close to the in-classroom experience as possible, with their teachers on the other side of the screen.

The typical courses will continue to be offered, including core subjects, like math and English, as well as electives, like band and art.

Lessons will be recorded for students encountering technical difficulties or other issues that keep them from class, according to Deputy Superintendent Delsa Chapman.

Helping working families

School district officials will look to community partners for ideas on how to help families whose parents work during the day, which would leave their children home alone.

Chapman said officials will look for partnerships with businesses that could offer open spaces where students could be cared for as they complete their online instruction.

Farhan Bhatti, a physician and member of the district’s Board of Education, suggested during a meeting Thursday that schools make some school district computer labs available for students from those families.

The answer hasn’t been worked out, but Chapman promised a “full” and “complete” answer will be included in the final plans.

Meals for students

SodexoMAGIC, the school district’s food provider, continued feeding students after schools closed in March and through the summer at several meal pickup sites. School officials are working to organize the program to run through the fall.

Officials also will work with Dean Transportation, the school district’s bus provider, to offer meal delivery services to students and families who can’t make it to the pickup sites.

Access to devices, internet connections and educational materials

Devices, including Chromebooks, laptops and tablets will be provided to all school district students from pre-K to seniors.

Parents are asked to complete a school district inventory that will appear on the school’s website Monday. It must be filled out and submitted by July 27 at noon. Parents will be asked whether their student needs a device or internet access. Families can work with the district to secure both. 

“We are 100% ready in the Lansing School District to distribute devices,” Chapman said, encouraging students, parents and guardians to complete the inventory. “We need to know if you have that as a need.”

School officials are working with internet providers who can offer several months of internet service for free to new buyers, said Superintendent Sam Sinicropi. Hotspots are also available and the district is looking into “mega hotspots,” or areas near clusters of students who can access the connection. 

Students will additionally receive learning kits with school supplies and other items. School district officials are looking at giving students extra materials they need for a series of lessons in a packet they can pick up for science courses and other classes that require more than pencils and paper.

Supports for students with special needs 

Contingency plans developed for each individual student with special needs will guide their education.

Officials worked with students to create more than 2,000 special education contingency plans last school year, Chapman said. Those plans will be revisited and potentially revised for the new school year.

Teachers will also be checking in regularly with each student.

“Our goal is to make sure that … all of our families and students are connected,” said Associate Superintendent Camela Diaz.

Teachers, staff and special education officials will all be trained and provide support for students through the screen-to-screen platform.

Parents are encouraged to reach out to their schools to learn more about the plans for their children.

Teacher availability

Officials hope to make the online education experience resemble a normal classroom setting as much as possible, including opportunities for students to speak with teachers individually.

Superintendent Sam Sinicropi, a former teacher, said he hopes teachers will be able to assess each student and make time for those students identified as needing help. There will also be support staff available for students to work with.

Supporting parents

Supporting a student learning from home was a different experience for Lansing School District parents last school year. The school district hopes to help them this fall.

Officials continue developing a guide for parents that includes technical assistance and protocols for the online programs students will use to complete coursework. Additional supports will focus on how to support the needs of their students learning from home.

The district’s new “Parent University” will be unveiled in three to four weeks with additional instruction on supporting students in virtual learning and social and emotional support.

Supporting staff

Lansing School District is partnering with the Ingham Intermediate School District to provide online instruction training for educators.

Instructional coaches and support staff assigned to each school building will also be trained on how best to assist teachers.

Options when schools reopen

Students can opt to continue remote learning for the entire school year once in-person classes resume.

School staff who could become seriously ill or who have family members whose health could be compromised by contracting COVID-19 also will have the chance to opt for teaching online.

“Under no circumstances do I want a teacher to think they are risking their life returning in the fall,” said Gabrielle Lawrence, president for the Lansing School District Board of Education. “Teachers have it hard enough.”

Return to school plan forums

► 3 p.m. Monday for district administrators

► 1 p.m. Tuesday for instructional and support staff

► 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Wednesday for the community 

Contact Mark Johnson at 517-377-1026 or at majohnson2@lsj.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson.



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