In the past few weeks Fountain Hills Unified School District announced its plan for the reopening of schools on Aug. 17, with online instruction beginning a week prior on Aug. 11.
The plan included four options for families to choose from when it comes to receiving instruction this year. New FHUSD Superintendent Kelly Glass broke down these four options.
“So we have first the traditional model and that is where kids come back to school, they have a classroom teacher and they just receive instruction like they always have,” Glass explained. “The second model is traditional with options for remote learning. So if a student is sick or maybe has to be quarantined because their family has been exposed to the virus, they have the option of remoting into the classroom and watching that classroom teacher teach live.”
These first two options can also be combined based on a family’s preference.
“The remote learning model can also be used if a parent wants their kids to come to school, say, for first and second period and take biology and geometry, and then they might be able to remote into the rest of their classes for the rest of the day,” Glass said.
The last two models are both online options for Falcons who aren’t ready to return to the classroom just yet.
“The third model is the online virtual academy,” Glass said. “We have an approved online academy through the State Board of Education that allows us to have instruction and give credit to students for a variety of reasons. They could do credit recovery or, if they need another class but their schedule won’t allow for it, they can take it through this virtual academy. Our online academy is delivered by Edgenuity and the courses are pre-developed courses in that program that in some instances our teachers teach and in some instances their (Edgenuity) teachers teach. It is very dependent on the course.”
The final model is new to FHUSD but Glass has had experience with it in the past.
“The fourth model is something that is not new to me but is new to the district and it is called Schools PLP,” Glass said. “It is a personalized learning software platform that students and their families can use to take courses in two different ways. One, our teachers could teach the classes and they could use the curriculum resources that are in there or, what is more likely, we are going to put our Beyond Textbooks standards into Schools PLP.”
The Schools PLP model will also allow students to conduct independent study or self-paced learning. In those cases a FHUSD staff members will still be assigned to monitor the students to make sure they are making progress. When it comes to selecting an online module, Glass said that it all comes down to personal choice.
“There really isn’t a lot of difference between option three and four,” Glass said. “It’s just that our approved virtual academy uses Edgeunity and we only have it approved for [grades] 9-12. The fourth model is through Schools PLP and it’s actually a pre-K through 12 model, so we will be able to use it for all of our students. It will really come down to which platform meets the needs of the students.”
So far it appears the majority of the Falcon flock is ready to return to campus.
“There weren’t as many families that selected the virtual academy as we had thought that there would be,” Glass said. “At this point there are more families selecting Model 1 or 2 than are picking 3 or 4.”
For those students who aren’t ready to return, they can still expect to see familiar faces when it comes to instructors
“The students that want teacher-led instruction online, we do have some staff that are not prepared to go back into the classroom because of some other situations in there life,” Glass said. “So we will have them teaching online as well as monitoring students who do self-directed learning.”
Glass also emphasized that online instruction would be different than it was when FHUSD was required to quickly go online last school year due to COVID-19.
“One of the things that I would really like everyone to understand is that last year, at the very end of the school year, we were not supposed to deliver any new learning to children,” Glass explained. “We were to provide families and students with educational resources with opportunities for them to do different things, but not to provide any instruction. What will be different this year is that we are one, required to take attendance. Two, we do have to provide new learning and follow the standards like normal and we have to make sure we are engaging our students.”
Teachers are also receiving professional development for online instruction, learning the best practices to effectively teach online. Along with that, Glass said that teachers will be receiving professional development to help students during this emotionally challenging time.
“We are also really into the process of planning our professional development when out staff comes back,” Glass said. “We are going to be engaging them in trauma informed instructional practices so that we can engage our students. Even though nothing physical may have happened to our students, a lot of the news, COVID-19 and now wearing masks is difficult for them.”
Things are still in motion when it comes to reopening schools but Glass said she and her team are taking things day by day, sometimes hour by hour, to make sure they can re-open FHUSD as safely as possible.