E-learning could ease snow day woes for MPS

MARSHALL — “This winter was interesting,” for Marshall Public Schools, said Jeremy Williams, director of teaching and learning. The Marshall area saw record snowfall, and the storms kept canceling classes. It wasn’t a good situation for learning.

But now, school district staff are recommending a plan that could help. While they can’t replace face-to-face teaching time, online learning days could help Marshall students stay on track, even on days when schools are closed due to weather. Members of an e-learning committee reported to the Marshall School Board on Monday evening, and outlined a pilot plan for holding e-learning days at MPS.

School board members will vote on the proposal in July.

Williams and other presenters on Monday said committee members looked at state rules for e-learning days, and got advice from other area school districts that use e-learning for inclement weather.

State statutes allow school districts to have up to five e-learning days a year due to weather. The assignments students do on e-learning days must align with what they are currently learning in class. Schools must also accommodate students who need special education, and students who may not have access to an Internet connection during a weather event.

Beyond the state requirements, e-learning committee members laid out the specifics of a proposed e-learning plan for MPS, which would start during the upcoming 2019-2020 school year. The first snow day of the school year would be made up on Feb. 17. If there are more snow days after that, e-learning days will be announced, presenters said. Parents would also be notified if an e-learning day is announced.

An e-learning day would count as a regular school day, meaning attendance will be taken, presenters said. Students would have three days to turn in their assignments from an e-learning day, and those assignments would be counted for attendance.

E-learning work would be assigned differently for students at different grade levels, presenters said. Kids in preschool through fourth grade could do learning activities sent home on paper or online. Students at Marshall Middle School, Marshall High School and MATEC would complete activities for each of their classes, which would be posted online. E-learning activities for older students could include virtual classes, or “flipped classroom” sessions, where students learn lessons at home and work on assignments back at school.

School board members didn’t have to take action on the proposal on Monday, but they did have questions and feedback. Board member Sara Runchey said she had concerns about lists of e-learning activities being sent home on paper.

“It’s a lot of things for parents to keep track of,” she said.

Board member Matt Coleman asked if day care providers would also need to be notified about e-learning days to help make sure younger students get their assignments done. Williams said part of the reason students would have a three-day window to turn in their work was to allow some flexibility for kids to complete the e-learning assignment and have parents sign off on them.

Board member Bill Swope asked how MPS would handle e-learning days for students or parents who aren’t English speakers. Williams said the district will need to work with Parent Student Connectors to help prepare everyone for e-learning days.

The proposed e-learning day plan will come back before the school board next month.

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