SASD 4K students virtual learning

Some of the youngest learners in the Stoughton Area School District worked hard adapting to virtual learning this spring. Here, Addison Topp shows off some numbers skills at her desk last spring.

With more than a year’s worth of experience teaching remotely, Stoughton Area School District staff are using that knowledge in planning how to blend virtual offerings this fall and beyond.

District director of curriculum Kate Ahlgren laid out some of those plans at the Monday, May 3, Stoughton Area school board meeting, saying while there are a “great deal of unknowns.” She added that the district has been planning for more than a year on how to improve its “Virtual Vikings” program.

The district is planning to send letters out to parents later this week to get opinions on the respective options for students in grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Families will have until July to decide on an option.

The plan is for students to return to five days a week in-person learning this fall, with an option for all-virtual learning. The virtual option is expected to be a much smaller scale than this past year.

“All these decisions really hinge on students and numbers,” she said.

For families interested in virtual, there are two models – one mostly live learning with some independent learning, and the other a full schedule of independent learning. Ahlgren said the interest from families will help the district finalize its virtual model.

For grades K-5, the first model would feature live learning on core subjects like math and language arts and independent learning for art, music and phy ed. This model would bring together students in all three elementary schools into one virtual class but would require at-home supervision.

“Really key for our students in K-5, if you’re thinking about any type of virtual learning, is that it will require quite intensive adult support from home,” she said. “Our youngest learners typically do benefit from and rely upon an adult in the home or in the environment, supporting the child’s access to instruction.”

The second K-5 model would feature full independent learning, with families working with school leaders to plan schedules. Students would be required to check in at established times with school staff.

For grades 6-8, Model 1 would be only used if enough students at a grade level select that option.

Depending on participation, courses could be delivered as a full virtual class, or virtual students would Zoom into an in-person class. Live learning would be used for most core classes, with independent learning for most electives.

In Model 2 of full independent learning for grades 6-8, families would work with school leaders to plan schedules, with students required to check-in at established times with school staff.

For grades 9-12 students, Model 1 would be dependent on numbers of students who select live learning, with courses delivered as a full virtual class or having virtual students Zoom into an in-person class. Most core classes would be live learning, with most elective classes either independent learning or available in-person.

Model 2 would be full independent learning, with students assigned to courses with district teachers to fulfill course requirements at their own pace. Students would be required to check in at established times with their teachers, and attendance would be taken in accordance with the state Department of Public Instruction guidelines for virtual attendance.

Board member Joe Freye asked if students who are perhaps “traditionally marginalized or excluded” or didn’t enjoy the in-person experience might automatically opt for virtual schooling.

“Are they going to be tempted to do this because it’s just less painful for them and everyone else?” he asked. “It’s a hard question.”

Ahlgren said it’s a question district officials are actively exploring.

“We know that our schools, just in general … haven’t been as welcoming for all of our students,” she said. “So one of the things we have to do is continue to do all of the work that we are doing around equity to make our school places that all students want to see themselves in and feel a sense of belonging in.”

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Newspaper Group reporter

Scott De Laruelle

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