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State education officials working with local districts on plan for online-only classes

7 months 2 weeks 3 days ago Wednesday, April 15 2020 Apr 15, 2020 April 15, 2020 4:00 PM April 15, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE, La.- Governor John Bel Edwards announced, as expected, Wednesday all K-12 public school buildings will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.

"It's unfortunate, that we had to do this, but it's important that we promote public health," the governor said during a news conference Wednesday.  

"This was a critical step to protect public safety," he said.

He signed the official order Wednesday, though it was widely expected, as WBRZ reported in the days prior.

"This is not the end of learning for this academic year, it's just the end of students physically going to the school campuses for the remainder of the spring semester," the governor said.

Edwards assures, "Education will continue," through distance learning.

The governor initially shut down schools on March 16 as a way to curb the spread of coronavirus. The order was set to expire on April 30. The governor said May 20 is typically the end of the year, and sending kids back to the physical school before that time "is just not going to work."

The Louisiana State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) President Sandy Holloway says that the state department of education is working on a long-term plan to help school districts meet the needs of both educating and feeding students while they stay at home for the remainder of the school year.

“Looking at, what will districts need? How will we support them? How will the stimulus dollars that are coming in from the federal government be an asset, support, a funding source, for our districts to support the technology needs?” Holloway said.

BESE hopes that federal dollars from the CARES Act will continue to assist the state in providing low-income families with internet access and technology for remote schooling. 

Holloway recognizing that it won’t be the perfect educational environment.

“We do know that there will be gaps in their learning. Because they’re going to miss, you’re looking at nine weeks of school, or just a little more,” Holloway said.

By the end of the week, following consultation with school system leaders, the Louisiana Department of Education plans to issue guidance to school systems related to retaining and promoting students in grades Kindergarten through 11, as well as to ensuring access to technology for all students.

Education leaders will work to identify every child's learning level and implement a plan to ensure every child will be able to move ahead from that learning level, including strategies for extra academic time, the department said in a statement Wednesday. 

Since March 16, when schools were initially shut down due to COIVD-19, Holloway says that individual school district superintendents have approached distance learning in different ways to meet the individual needs of their specific districts.

“It comes from online, paper, or some combination for our students. And we know how much it can significantly impact the learning of students,” Holloway said.

The way school districts approach the next school year may also differ depending on what each superintendent sees fit, according to Holloway. Adding that BESE and the department of education are looking at multiple options across the state. 

“It may be that one district may roll out a summer plan, whereas another district maybe says we may start days early. I can’t say what these districts will do, but I do know those are conversations out there that are happening. Or how will we meet these gaps? Will we have to do diagnostic testing to figure out where these children are and where do we take them to lead them to that goal we’ve set out for them?” Holloway said.

The state Senate Committee on Education chairman Cleo Fields also released a statement Monday, in part saying that “whether students needs are addressed through online instruction, summer remediation, an earlier start date for the next academic year, co-requisite instruction in the fall, or other avenues, I expect that our educators will work diligently to ensure that students are prepared to progress academically.”

On Tuesday, Livingston Parish issued a statement it was solidifying its distance learning programs to meet the expected order of keeping campuses closed.

“Our teachers and school administrators have maintained a vigorous level of engagement and quality learning activities with our students since the school closures were first announced in March.  While the situation is not optimal, we know that ‘where there is a will, there is a way,’ and our people are committed to ensuring all our students continue to learn and progress forward during this time,” Superintendent Joe Murphy said.

Livingston Parish curriculum directors have been working with campus administrators and state education leaders to craft plans of action for senior graduations, pupil progression and options for summer instruction, the school district said in a news release. 

In Ascension Parish, the school district created an online message board for parents related to online learning.  Click HERE to access the website.

Because of "dedicated funding for technology, our school system is positioned to provide online/distance learning to students," the school district said in a message to parents.  It said, "our main goal is not grades, but rather support for ongoing academic progress..."  

Teachers will use grades from students' work prior to the schools closing on March 13 to calculate an average grade; The average will be used as a baseline when determining whether or not to use the academic progress of online learning, the district said. Performance data from online learning will not be included in a final grade unless it "serves to improve the student's fourth-quarter grade," the Ascension school system told parents.

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