With eight weeks left in the academic year and students homebound because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Spokane Public Schools will roll out a more standardized distance learning model this week.
“Even though we aren’t meeting in classrooms, it is essential for students to still ‘show up for school’ and to keep learning,” the district said in a letter sent to families Sunday afternoon.
“With roughly two months left in the school year, we want to encourage you to make the most of this time,” the letter continued.
“Teachers, counselors and administrators are ready to help students continue along their academic path, and to support families in their new role as well.”
After what Associate Superintendent Adam Swinyard called a “thoughtful process,” the district also expects teachers and families to be on the same page.
In most cases that will be Microsoft Teams, a one-stop application where students will be able to get lesson plans for the week. The page will be accessed through Clever, which is accessible from the SPS website.
Logging into Clever will sign students into Office 365, Microsoft Teams, Blackboard and elementary curriculum.
MS Teams allows a teacher to hold a virtual classroom using whiteboard and other applications. It also allows students to chat and work on assignments at the same time.
“The information will provide some consistency across the board,” Swinyard said.
Students will be expected to check their Office 365 email and/or Microsoft Teams at the beginning of each week to find out the plan for the week.
“We wanted to avoid emails every day,” Swinyard said.
Students also must complete their daily assignments with teachers communicating on how to submit work for feedback and grading.
Expectations will vary by grade and include two components: required work, which is 45 minutes per day for kindergarten and first grade, one hour for grades 2-3, 90 minutes for grades 4-6, 20 minutes per class per day for middle school and 30 minutes per class per day for high schoolers.
Those lessons will be graded.
Also on the website is the Connect 5 optional curriculum. “There’s more content here and more opportunities for learning,” Swinyard said.
TV lessons for all grades will be broadcast in partnership with KSPS/PBS from April 27 through June 12. Those can be viewed online at ksps.org/keeplearning. Weekly schedules will be listed at spokaneschools.org.
Asked why the district hadn’t rolled out the new standard sooner, Superintendent Shelley Redinger said some districts had moved ahead prematurely, then had to backtrack.
“They had problems with consistency,” Redinger said. “Of course, we would have liked it sooner rather than later.”
The move was delayed for other reasons: the state superintendent’s early direction for equity in distance learning, which meant that most distance learning was considered “enrichment” and not required.
Since then the district moved to distribute more than 5,000 laptops to families who lacked them, and worked with local internet providers to expand access.
Last week, the district and the Spokane Education Association signed a memorandum of understanding, spelling out the duties of teachers in distance learning.
“The SEA has been a good partner in this,” Redinger said.