Letter from Superintendent Remy on Virtual Learning
APRIL 17 UPDATE: Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced that Iowa schools will be closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.
ORIGINAL POST: I’d like to share an more information on how WDMCS is supporting your student’s learning over the coming weeks. I certainly understand the importance of keeping all our children in a routine and helping them continue learning while away from our schools.
Our administrative team has been working to create numerous resources that families can use while supporting students at home. We are working to ensure that the resources we suggest provide free learning opportunities, are easy to navigate from a non-educator perspective, are aligned to the Iowa Core Standards, engaging for students, and are free from bias.
Let me share a little more about how the Iowa Department of Education (DE) impacts this topic of online, or virtual, learning.
The DE put together a Continuous Learning Task Force that held its first meeting on Wednesday, March 25. Our understanding is that their priority will be to research what is happening in districts across the state and to provide additional guidance regarding online learning options. Please know that the information I’m sharing today could change at any time based on what occurs at those task force meetings. We will be sure to regularly update our WDMCS families on this topic.
What We Currently Know
In Iowa, up until approximately 10 days ago, using online learning activities in place of classroom activities was not (and still isn’t) allowed under Iowa Code to count for credit and hours. That doesn’t mean enrichment activities can’t be provided, but the learning time would not count as school days/time. That said, over spring break many of our school staff started to put together enrichment experiences and activities for our students.
After our initial email to families explaining online learning as a replacement for school was not allowed, the DE held a webinar on this topic. The webinar explained that what some districts were doing did not align with providing services to ALL students, and in particular students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and 504s.
Consequently, the DE stated schools needed to slow down in providing some of what was beginning to emerge – class pages that looked like they were tied to core content and learning experiences to support them. They indicated reading books aloud and organizing enrichment was appropriate but things beyond that were likely in violation of IEPs, etc. We communicated to staff this new guidance and asked that they pause and consider this as they moved forward.
In addition to concerns related to students with IEPs/504s, students who are disadvantaged (financially, in particular) are most likely to be further disadvantaged because online learning was not specifically designed to support them. Specifically, that means they likely may not have the necessary hardware at home and may not have the internet to support the learning experiences even if the hardware is available.
Our team has been working on a plan to use if the guidance from the DE changes. We created a survey to determine the need for internet access and devices. Because we only currently provide Chromebooks to students in grades 3-12, we need to work on plans to provide devices to students who are currently in K-2 grade. As you can see, we have many people working behind the scenes to support our students and families within the guidance from the Iowa Department of Education.
Thank you for the support you provide your students at home while juggling any number of other family responsibilities. We hope to see your students back in our classrooms soon.
Lisa Remy, Ed.D.