Board approves online learning option | Education – ECM Publishers

Posted: August 25, 2021 at 1:44 am

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The Stillwater Area Schools board unanimously approved an online school option for elementary school students during a special called meeting on Monday, Aug. 16.

Superintendent Malinda Lansfeldt said the program is designed for students who are not yet eligible for vaccination. The program will include classes for students and teachers from across the district.

The district received emails from parents and it even received a handwritten letter from an elementary school student requesting an online option in response to recent increases in COVID cases because of the delta variant.

The student wrote, Dear school Bord please can I have online school? Becuse thats the way I feel safe. Its like if you really wanted to meet new frends! (Because the letter is written by an elementary school student, the Gazette is not editing the statement for spelling).

The 139 students who signed up, were required to commit to entirely online learning for the first semester. There is no plan currently in place for a second semester option; however, district staff will discuss those plans with the board in October, and their recommendation will depend on the COVID-19 situation.

All board members voiced support for the temporary online learning option, and many also supported the distance learning option becoming permanent in some form.

The upcoming online program will be housed at Andersen Elementary with the teachers running the program collaborating together, district superintendent Malinda Lansfedlt said at the meeting on Aug. 13.

Andersen Elementary School Principal Anna Wilcek spoke during the boards regularly Aug. 13 meeting.

She said theres a wealth of knowledge because the pandemic forced the district to figure out an online option quickly. It will help this year to have the online teachers housed in the same building instead of mixed all over the district.

It will be exciting to bring all of that brain power together, Wilcek said. (Well) take lessons from last year, and apply them to this year. Im ready to dive in, and work with amazing people.

Board members asked about an about offering an online learning option for sixth to 12th grade. Last year the board focused on returning elementary school students to buildings while keeping more online options available for secondary learners.

The reversal in thinking is that there are complexities at the secondary level, assistant superintendent Jennifer Cherry said.

We just do not have the capacity, we do not want to go back to our teachers and ask them to teach online in addition to in-person learning, Cherry said. It does not make sense at this time.

The board approved the funding request for the program at $250,000. The money will be used to hire four full-time equivalent employees. The money will come from COVID relief funds.

The board also approved $35,000 in funding for technological capital investments.

The district estimated that if the students left the district because there wasnt an online option it would cost the district $1.4 million.

I look at this as a long-term investment, Lansfeldt said. If we can keep even 25 students, this pays for itself.

Do we have any measurable outcomes with the online learning, board member Tina Riehle asked?

While there wasnt specific data immediately available, Cherry responded that anecdotally distance learning is a good fit for some students.

Online learning is not for every child, Cherry said. We do know some children did very well online. Typically it was the students whose family chose the online option.

School board member Annie Porbeni asked about an online option for sixth grade students as many are 11 years old and who are not yet eligible for a vaccine.

When conducting research, the district found only a handful of those students really wanted an online option, and the district was able to work with those few specific cases to come up with a solution, Cherry responded.

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Board approves online learning option | Education - ECM Publishers

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August 25th, 2021 at 1:44 am

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