For the 14 percent of Bement students who have opted to learn solely online this semester, Superintendent Sheila Greenwood is confident they will get a quality education, thanks to a contract with Educere, which specializes in online curriculum for K-12 students.
She told the school board Aug. 5 that the software is based on Illinois software standards, has a pacing guide to track student progress, and lists what assignments have been completed and which assignments are pending.
“It’s pretty engaging, honestly,” said Greenwood. “If I was going to do remote learning I’d be pretty jacked about it, because you have videos and interaction.”
The online teachers provided by the company are based in Illinois, she added.
“Our hopes are that, at the end of the first semester, that what they’ve learned will be transferable to the second semester,” said Greenwood.
Registration for the 2020-21 school year was ending just as the school board meeting began, with preliminary figures being brought in to school administrators as the meeting progressed. At that point, 39 students had opted into distance learning, out of an expected student body of 290.
Of that total, 11 high schoolers had opted in to fully online learning, along with 10 middle school students and 18 from he elementary school.
It was noted that about 25 families had not shown up at registration, so the online figure could rise.
Remote/distance learning, which Greenwood referred to as the “Bement Online Academy,” will not be cheap for the school district. At $499.75 each, 39 licenses will run the district $19,490.25. Parents will pay $200 per student for online learning, but since they will not have registration fees will come close to breaking even, said the superintendent.
Those eligible for free and reduced lunch will pay $100 for the online option.
Greenwood said those who do not contact the district will automatically be signed up for in-person instruction, which the district is also offering as an option five days per week with slightly shortened days beginning Aug. 17.
There was also plenty of discussion on the in-person learning option, along with the safety precautions being taken to protect students and staff from COVID-19.
Greenwood outlined precautions being taken, including the purchase of:
–Clipboards that students can use for assignments while outdoors
–Lanyards for students to hold their masks when not in use
–Two 30 x 60-foot tents outside to allow for socially-distanced mask breaks
–Water bottles, which can be filled at filling stations
–Hands-free sanitizing stations;
–Ear buds with plastic cases for all students
She added that some stairwells will be designated one way to decrease traffic, playgrounds are off limits, and temperature checks and wellness check questions will be administered to each student before they enter school buildings.
Board member Trixie Stoerger-Flavin liked the fact the school was going further than just temperature checks at the door.
“I’m glad you’re going through questions at the door,” said Flavin, saying it is more thorough since some may show other symptoms but not have a fever.
Greenwood said social distancing in school means six feet “whenever possible,” knowing that it cannot be attained at all times.
She added that it will be an adjustment for teachers to stay distant from their students.
“It’s difficult, I think, for educators. We use proximity a lot and we’re not going to be able to do that as much,” said the superintendent. Some measures are being taken to accommodate more distance, such as increasing the screen font on computers so they can be seen from further away.
“It’s a no-win situation,” acknowledged board member Kyle Rogers.
Students opting into online – which they must do for an entire semester – will be allowed to participate in extra-curricular activities, but must adhere to school safety policies when they do, including face coverings.
Board member Layna Somers was not sure fully online-learner should be allowed in extra-curriculars.
“That bothers me,” she said. “I feel like if they can’t come to school, why would they” want to be in those activities.
Greenwood replied that the policy is based on guidance from the state, and that she felt they could not be excluded.
About 12 percent online at Blue Ridge
The Farmer City-based Blue Ridge school district had 84 of 709 students choose the online option for the first semester, which amounts to about 11.8 percent.
Students at the fourth through eighth grade Blue Ridge Intermediate and Junior High School signed up for the online package at the highest rate (15.6 percent), followed by Schneider Elementary (10.4 percent) and Blue Ridge High School (9.8 percent).