Perry School Board approves online learning option

Andrew Brown - Reporter
The Perry School Board met in a special meeting on Wednesday, July 22 to discuss and approve the schools' online learning option as part of the "Return to Learn" package. PHOTO BY ANDREW BROWN/THE PERRY CHIEF

The Perry School Board held a special meeting Wednesday, July 22 to discuss and approve an online learning option as part of the “Return To Learn” package.

The meeting was solely based on the online learning plan set by the school district should students and families chose the online option over in-person instruction. Superintendent Clark Wicks said the purpose of the online learning option is to “provide families and students with unique medical needs or are otherwise uncomfortable attending traditional on-site learning with an option to continue their learning in a virtual setting.”

Overall, one point of emphasis hovered over the school board meeting and the online learning option itself.

“During this time, these are fluid documents,” began Wicks. “We’re starting with this just like with on-site and we’ll need to make adjustments as needed.”

A big component to that, as Wicks pointed out, is the number of students that end up deciding to go with the online option as opposed to on-site learning.

“We don’t know how many students are going to be taking online,” Wicks said. “That makes a big difference whether we have five students, 50 students, or 500 students.”

Right now as it stands, Perry Schools will be offering on-site learning five days a week and on-line options five days a week as well. Within the overall plan, six main focal points were addressed at the meeting.

  • Students who choose the online learning option for the 2020-21 school year will complete 100 percent of their learning virtually through the use of various online platforms such as Google Classroom, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Seesaw and more.
  • Lessons and instruction will be posted daily by classroom teachers either through live-streaming or pre-recorded lessons that are uploaded to Google Classroom each day. Students participating in online learning will be able to log and complete activities during each school day while those on-site will continue to attend the regularly scheduled school day.
  • In terms of participation online, daily participation is required and students must complete required course work by assigned due dates
  • Attendance will be taken and grades will be assigned for work completed. If work is not completed to demonstrate successful completion of the Iowa Core Standards, students may not earn credit for that course. Wicks and the school board emphasized the importance of participation in daily activities, lessons and completed work.
  • While an emphasis was also put on sticking to one option or the other, the plan did discuss possible re-entry to on-site learning should a students’ progress drop and deemed unsatisfactory.
  • Students who receive special education services will continue to receive special education services through an online platform. IEP teams will meet to review and amend IEP’s to reflect virtual learning, with consideration to Specifically Designed Instruction, behavior support, para-educator support, related services (OT, speech, hearing, PT) and progress monitoring specific to virtual learning.

There was one item in particular that drew a lot of interest early in the meeting. It regarded the proclamation signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds Friday, July 17 that allows a temporary switch to more than 50 percent remote learning. Through discussion, Wicks and other board members talked about the 50 percent mark as not referring to the amount of time a student is on school grounds. It also does not refer to the number of students on-site but rather the amount of time spent within core classes offered at the school vs online over a two week period.

The conversation then turned towards how each school (elementary, middle and high school) is addressing the online learning option within their respective school years. Ryan Marzen spoke on behalf of the elementary school. He started with a survey about online learning interest in which 79 out of the 116 families were interested in online learning with seven out of the 79 reported without internet access. The elementary school will go with either live stream or recorded sessions delivered through various online platforms. Students are required to complete all work and attend all sessions. While things aren’t set in stone, the platforms could include virtual teaching or various teachers covering separate courses.

Quinton Pelz, who began his first week at Perry just this week after serving in administration within the Van Meter School District, represented the Perry Middle School. He too spoke about an interest survey put out and mentioned similar online expectations. Pelz discussed the use of Google Classrooms throughout the middle school.

“It’s also how a teacher could teach while the students are in session so it alleviates having to teach twice,” Pelz said.

Pelz also mentioned the use of “team time” and how teachers could shift towards more one-on-one time with students instead of in groups.

Some of the bigger challenges regarding online learning came when discussing the high school set up. The high school is the only education building within the Perry Community School District that has requirements for earning a certain amount of credits in order to graduate.

“For us, it’s about the work, not necessarily about the seat time. It’s about the standards being met and the credit being given,” said Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger. “This is where the commitment level of a family and student come into high gear compared to where we were in the spring. Nothing was required in the spring but now this is all required, so if you don’t complete an assignment, if you don’t complete it online it’s the same consequence as in-class, you may not pass the class.”

Because of the unknown amount of students that might take the online option, Marburger also talked about the schedule remaining the same as of now. He also talked about various early out options but options that wouldn’t ostracize those students who do go through the online option. Marburger also mentioned the possibility that the online students may be a day behind in their learning compared to those on-site.

Overall, Marburger, Marzen, Pelz and Wicks, among others, made it a point to note that for those students who were having trouble turning in assignments before might not fit well with the online option. Marburger also noted that there could be a short period (by Sept. 11) where those who originally decide to go with online learning can transition back to in-class learning.

It was unanimous around the school board that students either go 100 percent online or 100 percent in the classroom but not a combination of both.

“That’s why it’s so important to get who’s online and who’s not online,” said Marburger. “Some classes may not be able to be offered online based off of those classes we identify.”

The board also talked about how online learning would impact the workload of teachers.

“Our teachers already do a lot with online learning and technology use,” Marzen said of Perry Elementary School teachers. “They’ve done a great job learning about the different platforms and technologies that could be used.”

Each building will have separate dates for community members to meet and gather more information. On Monday, July 27 inside the Perry Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. parents of high school students can come and ask questions regarding the online learning plan. For parents of middle school students, they will be able to meet and ask questions on Tuesday, July 28 and elementary school parents will be able to ask questions about the online learning option on Wednesday, July 29, also within the Performing Arts Center.

The board did agree to address the online learning plan on a monthly basis.