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Tecumseh, Shawnee to return to school Aug. 13, will offer distance learning options

Elisabeth Slay
The Shawnee News-Star
Online School

Similar to other districts, Tecumseh Public Schools will begin the 2020-2021 school year Thursday, Aug. 13 but it will offer virtual options for students who wish or need to continue distance learning.

According to Superintendent Tom Wilsie, TPS is planning for most students to return to in-person instruction in the Fall, but the district has also developed a ew and solid distancing learning plan.

"We are still developing the plan. We hope to have it out next week and...In terms of the distance learning we will have a brand new virtual learning plan where parents can opt to do that just from day one if they want to," Wilsie said.

The administrator said TPS was one of many to receive an Incentive Grant from the State Board of Education and used their $200,000 grant to purchase a new learning management system called Canvas.

"We feel like it will give the teachers a great way to develop lesson plans (and) put those in a format that the students can easily access," Wilsie said. "We feel like it will help us because it's going to be one location that teachers would have to go in terms of putting those plans together and it's one location for students to go to access those lesson plans."

Wilsie said Canvas will make it easier for students who chose virtual learning to stay at the same pace as students who are physically in school.

The program, Wilsie said will also make it easier for students to continue their education without much interruption should they need to leave in-person instruction or the district has to shut down again.

In addition to the purchase of Canvas, Wilsie said the district also used its grant to purchase 1000 devices such as Chromebooks and iPads so students have access to the program.

"We will be checking those out (to students) probably around the first part of August," Wilsie said.

Along with Canvas and more devices, Wilsie said TPS also used part of its Incentive Grant to purchase 500 hot spots.

"(These) will be working with those families that have need for that," Wilsie said. "(It's) to make sure that we are delivering a quality education to every student."

Wilsie said while the district has a solid distance learning plan, TPS is still developing and discussing what day-to-day in-person instruction will look like this year.

"Our intention is to start with the traditional in-person learning as we would each fall," Wilsie said. "We know that's going to be subject to change upon the most current information we have and as we know that's changing all the time."

The administrator said the district has and will continue to follow guidelines from state, national and global health organizations.

"We'll have a platform ready for students to be in virtual distancing learning if that is the need and then we're still planning all the things that are going to go with in-person learning and that is social distancing, the health checks, the masks and...the temperature checks," Wilsie said.

The superintendent said as he and other leaders develop their plan for the district there are two goals they will focus on; the health and safety of everyone and ensuring students receive a quality education.

Like Tecumseh, students and teachers of Shawnee Public Schools are scheduled to begin their 2020-2021 school year August 13.

However, SPS students will have three different options regarding what their education looks like this school year.

According to Superintendent Dr. April Grace, the district is offering three different education pathways for students amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grace said all students enrolled are automatically enrolled in the first education option which is a "traditional classroom learning pathway with digital learning days."

In this option, Grace said students will remain SPS students and they will have in-person social interactions with their peers and staff.

Students, Grace said, will also have immediate access to the district's learning resources such as libraries and other materials.

"SPS will utilize technology and the Internet to connect all teachers, students and parents for seamless learning transitions," Grace said.

In addition, students will have 24-7 online access to submitted or graded assignments, can participate in school-sponsored athletic and fine arts programs and will have free transportation to and from school.

Lastly in this option, Grace said those students participating in this pathway will be prepared to transition to digital days if schools need to shut down again.

"Digital Learning days are also available to individual students if needed. This is a joint decision between the school and the individual families," Grace said.

Grace said the second pathway is virtual and online learning for students pre-K through 12th grade who wish to continue their distance learning.

Students and parents who choose this option, Grace said, should contact the Shawnee Virtual School Coordinator.

In this pathway, Grace said students can access their lessons anywhere, will have a flexible work schedule, have a plan specific to them and have 24-7 online access to assignments.

Grace said students will be supervised by SPS certified teachers, regular communication between parents and teachers will be available, technology and Internet access will be provided, students will be able to participate in school-sponsored athletic and fine arts programs and will have access to all school services.

The final educational pathway only applies to high school students, Grace said, as it is a "personal hybrid pathway."

Grace said this option is a blend of on-site and online classes for grades nine through twelve.

"Students enrolled in Options (Two and Three) are expected to be independent learners," Grace said. "Support and supervision are provided, but parents (and) guardians are essential partners in the success of each student."

According to SPS Public Information Officer Cherity Pennington, while the district has educational plans available for students, other aspects regarding a mask mandate and social distancing policies are still being discussed.

"We do not have all the answers yet. We continue to have communication with state and local officials and we anticipate further guidance, which will help us provide more detailed information soon," Pennington said.

For more information visit https://www.shawnee.k12.ok.us/vnews/display.v/ART/5f07126bd8c56