FLORISSANT, Mo. — One of the largest school districts in Missouri has released details on how its virtual learning will work amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Hazelwood School District will have students attend virtually during the first quarter, which is through Oct. 15. When conditions related to COVID-19 “improve,” the district will offer parents a blended school option which would be two days in person and three days virtually.
School starts on Aug. 24.
With CARES Act funds, the district purchased 1,300 web cameras to enhance virtual instruction. The district also has Chromebooks and hot spots for families with technology needs.
A fourth-grade teacher at Twillman Elementary held a virtual school tutorial for the district’s communications and public relations department.
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According to a press release, fall virtual school will be significantly different than what students and staff experienced during the abrupt district closure last spring.
“We were in crisis mode,” fourth-grade teacher Laurie Martin said. “We were trying to make sure that school went on for all students, and we only had days to prepare for 100% virtual school.”
Teachers and curriculum coordinators have been developing plans to implement a robust virtual curriculum. Martin helped write the ELA curriculum.
“There is a lot of room and potential for creativity and innovation, which I always love as an educator,” Martin said.
Martin said the first thing students in her class will see is a quick good morning message, followed by direct instruction.
The school day will be structured with assignments, live feedback, and breaks to relieve stress, the district said. Teachers will also have some schedule flexibility to address the individual needs of students.
Here are some of the highlights for virtual learning from the district:
- Teachers will deliver live and recorded lessons
- Families should still plan to purchase school supplies. The district said its supply lists are designed to support in-person and virtual instruction. A reminder: the ‘tax holiday weekend’ is Aug. 7-9.
- Virtual school will have a normal school day structure, including direct instruction, interaction with classmates and breaks. Teachers will have some flexibility to meet the needs of their students.
- The district’s ‘Grab & Go Meal’ program will continue during the school year and details will be released soon.
5 On Your Side's Abby Llorico spoke to Hazelwood School District's spokesperson Anthony Kiekow.
Kiekow said he believes the district is making the best out of a tough situation.
"It’s not the ideal situation, we wont pretend that it is," he said. "However, we have really smart teachers, really smart kids, and parents who are resourceful. So I believe that we’ll be able to make this work."
He added that district leadership hopes they're able to move back into classrooms soon, but this setup gives them greater flexibility to do so without the stress of pivoting back and forth between models at the beginning of the school year.
"It is easier for us to move from a 100% virtual school model to a blended school model than actually removing kids from the building to make them go 100% virtual," he said. "I think that the best way forward for us is to make sure that we are starting off in this 100% virtual environment, and then when things related to COVID-19 improve, we can offer than blended option to our parents and have that face to face instruction again."
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