School districts across the state are planning the next fall semester with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in mind. The El Dorado School District has released its plans, which include two options for students: Wildcat Online Academy, a fully digital learning environment in which students will participate from their homes, and an on-site blended option that will include digital elements. in case the schools are closed. again.
The 2019/2020 school year ended abruptly for students in Arkansas after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced a spring break extension to turn into a shutdown. Local school districts responded by assembling Alternative Teaching Method (AMI) packages that were mixed with online learning.
The deadline to register for ESD’s Wildcat Online Academy (WOA) is July 12. According to information published by ESD, the curriculum that students are to use in WOA in the 2020/2021 school year will be more comprehensive than what was provided by AMI in the spring.
The fall semester for WOA students and on-site coeducational students begins August 13.
In-depth online learning
As school districts were in a rush to provide e-learning at the end of the spring semester, summer planning has enabled ESD to prepare to provide high-quality digital education to any student who chooses to use the WOA this school year.
WOA is available for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. No one who chooses the WOA option for their children will need to buy a computer for their student; instead, each student will receive a Chromebook to do their schoolwork on. The district also plans to ensure that the 16% of students in the district who do not have Internet access at home can still do their schoolwork.
âWe have purchased (wi-fi) hotspots for students who do not have internet access at home,â said ESD Superintendent Jim Tucker. âWe also bought – it’s called Cradlepoint, it’s an internet access point that connects on a bus and can access 200 devices at a time. We will be moving this to different neighborhoods throughout the school year.
WOA students will be required to follow a full schedule, as they would if they were learning on an ESD campus. AP courses will be offered to students. Plans are still in place for WOA students who wish to participate in concurrent credit courses through South Arkansas Community College.
SouthArk will offer concurrent credit courses to high school students in World History (Western Civilization), United States History, English (Composition I & II), English Literature I & II, University Algebra, University Trigonometry, Oral Communications, Psychology general, biology, and Anatomy and physiology I and II. They also offer technical career information courses in various IT related topics.
“Whichever model the high schools in the area are going to use, they will also use that same model for the concurrent courses that are taught in the high school,” said SouthArk president Dr Bentley Wallace. âWe also offer courses that are taught in our secondary technical centerâ¦ in those cases, whatever model we land on for the fall, those will follow our model. We don’t know 100% what it will look like. We are currently working on several contingency models.
Wallace said SouthArk is considering all of the ways they can provide an education for students, both high school and college, over the next semester, including on-campus learning with special measures in place to protect the student health, blended learning that involves both on-campus coursework and online learning and fully online coursework if COVID-19 cases increase too locally. He said he was confident that high school students would be able to earn college credit through concurrent classes in the next school year.
âI think the answer is yes; whether they teach in person or at a virtual academy, if they are eligible for concurrent credit, students will be able to enroll,â he said. El Dorado High School teaches most of the concurrent credit courses.
For all WOA students, although the format of instruction varies – Tucker said the district plans to primarily use Google Classroom, which students became familiar with during the Spring MAI – the school will always have held during normal hours. According to ESD’s WOA fact sheet, students will have set times they are expected to log in for classes for teaching and attendance purposes.
At the start of the school year, all students will be assessed to verify their retention from the 2019/2020 school year. Tucker said it was important for him to make sure no student fell behind due to the altered learning models districts have used since March.
âIt will be a challenge for some, but I don’t anticipate that everyone will have the same challenge,â he said. âWe have a lot of students who have gone above and beyond (during the spring semester). We will do everything we can to make sure that no student falls behind.
Parents in Kindergarten to Grade 6 will be encouraged to have a âlearning coachâ for their children, someone who makes sure their students log in every day and finish their work; that person can be a parent. The district requires that the learning coach remains constant throughout the school year, and they will be asked to attend a training session.
It will depend on the number of students enrolled in WOA versus onsite blended learning, whether teachers are dedicated to WOA only or onsite learning. Tucker said he didn’t expect the district to need to hire more teachers to meet the academic needs of each student.
WOA activities on campus
Some activities, even for WOA students, will still take place on ESD campuses, including extracurricular activities and student assessments.
Those who practice track and field, for example, will sometimes need to come to campus to take courses required by the Arkansas Activities Association (AAA). Students will also be allowed to participate in clubs and other activities like choir. ROTC students will be required to be on campus for their ROTC course period.
Standardized learning assessments will also require students to be on campus. Pupils from kindergarten up to participate in standardized annual tests. The Arkansas Department of Education will provide a date range for students to take their tests, according to ESD.
If a student chooses to return to on-site learning mid-year, they will need to complete the current nine-week period before returning to their campus. Elementary students will be assigned to the school that has space if they return to on-site learning. If a student has failed grades within a nine-week period, they may be required to resume on-site learning over the next nine weeks.
To learn more about the WOA, visit eldoradopublicschools.org. A virtual WOA registration form is available there.
Check out tomorrow’s edition of the News-Times for more information on ESD’s plans for on-site blended learning in the 2020/2021 school year.
This story has been updated to reflect the extended deadline to register for the Wildcat Online Academy.