The Bedford Public Schools, closed by state order until at least May 4 to slow the spread of Covid-19, this week forays into a new universe: “required engagement with online learning.”
In a letter to student households Friday, School Superintendent Jon Sills wrote that the remote experience will be guided by a recent collaborative vision statement. This includes “providing meaningful work, promoting choice, flexibility, creativity, and engagement; nurturing connections with students; and “factoring in the anxiety and other conditions that the crisis is imposing on students, educators, and their families.”
“We will craft these learning activities in ways that account for the challenging conditions that many families will face when trying to help our younger students access the learning,” Sills asserted.
The superintendent noted that if not overruled by the state, “it is our plan to call the past two weeks April vacation, and not interrupt the teaching and learning that we are about to launch.”
Over the past two weeks, students have been participating in online activities on a voluntary basis.
The mandatory process will ramp up gradually. Monday students will have a chance to line up their technology, with Chromebooks from the schools’ inventory being distributed to households that need them (tablets and laptops may also be used). High school students will continue using their iPads.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Sills said, teachers will “connect with their students, rekindle a sense of classroom community, and help them set up their distance-learning platforms.”
During this first week, the superintendent notes, teachers will be developing their online instructional skills, and videoconferencing for students will be voluntary.
Then, starting on Monday, April 6, for two weeks, “the learning focus will be on re-creating connections, mitigating isolation, reinforcing previous learning, practicing skills, and engaging in critical and creative thinking,” Sills advised the families.
Thereafter, “we may begin to integrate carefully selected new concepts and skills,” subject to state guidance, he continued.
“Davis and Lane School students will receive a daily message from their teachers to help students get ready for the day,” Sills wrote. “Our younger students will need parent support to access the learning. “He said detailed instructions on the learning platforms will be provided.
“At the middle school, team leaders will create schedules so that live activities from one subject to another do not conflict.” The same is true for Bedford High School. “Where possible, teachers will create routines so that students will know when to expect online engagement, discussions, demonstrations, etc.”
The superintendent advised families that there will be limitations inherent in the new reality. “Learning time will be reduced by at least half each day and week,” he wrote. “Teachers cannot virtually replicate the actual classroom, but they will approximate it in meaningful ways.”
There will be no traditional grades for middle and high school classes for the rest of the academic year. Grading will be pass or fail, based on work completion.
Sills advised student households that for most students, “Special Education Services during remote learning will be primarily focused on helping them access their general education instruction, maintaining skills and preventing regression.”
For most students, he continued, “services may shift to focus on consultation and collaboration with general education teachers rather than direct services to students.”
Students will continue to receive specialized instruction, though not at the frequency or duration as during the normal academic year, Sills said. “Students will have access to their special education liaisons and related service providers for support with academic classes.”