‘Ready to Learn’ opening plans unveiled by Fort Smith Public Schools

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,562 views 

The Fort Smith School District’s “Back to School: Ready to Learn Plan” spells out the district’s plan to blend traditional classroom learning with online courses while also offering programs for exclusively on-line education for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The plan focuses on meeting state guidelines of starting the fall semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The online content and assignments, the site states, are expected to be comparable to in-person classroom instruction.

“Blended Learning means that students will have access to the coursework for their classes in a traditional on-site classroom, as they have participated in the past, or through the use of lessons uploaded by their instructors,” states the district’s plan, which is posted online on the FSPS website.

Exclusively online programs will be available through Peak Innovation Center Virtual School for students in kindergarten through ninth grade and through Virtual School for 10th through 12th-grade students at both Southside and Northside high schools. Peak Virtual School, a 100% online education source, will be available for all FSPS students, though the district’s website states that students who are the strongest virtual school students have strong parental support and are self-motivated independent learners who are computer literate, good time managers, effective communicators. Students also need to make a personal commitment, have academic readiness and be technologically prepared.

“Families who select the Peak Virtual School option provide the home support needed to guide their children through the education process. Younger school-age students often require significantly more support. Early elementary students focus deeply on learning foundational skills like reading and critical mathematical skills. As students mature, less direct parent guidance should be required to be successful if the student possesses independent study skills and strong time management skills,” according to the plan.

Students not a grade level will be best served through a more traditional environment, the plan notes.

“However, students who have severe underlying medical conditions, including heart or lung disease or diabetes or are at risk for severe illness may be advised to participate in virtual learning for that student’s safety,” the website said.

Through Peak Virtual School, students take all classes online at home and only come to campus for scheduled and approved activities. Students in kindergarten through sixth grade will be able to access their home schools for some services. Students in seventh through ninth grade can participate in AAA activities, but must enroll. On-campus attendance will be required for those activities. High school students can use the district’s Virtual School either blended learning or 100% online learning.

Virtual classes will use Pearson Connexus content “guided by Arkansas course standards and aligned with FSPS essential standards,” while blended classes will use teacher-created curriculum through Schoology, the website states. High school students using the virtual learning method also can participate in AAA activities.

“This year, we face unique challenges in our efforts to provide on-site instruction and other key services. Conditions continue to change on a daily basis. Due to construction in many of our buildings and other factors, we must be prepared to modify and adjust our approach as the year progresses. Meeting these changing needs is likely to require continual review and varying degrees of modification to traditional procedures and practices. It may require shifts to different modes of instruction for days or weeks at a time,” the district’s website states.

Other aspects of the district’s plan look at safety issues. Parents will not be allowed to accompany students into buildings. They will be encouraged to remain in their vehicles when dropping off students. School offices will encourage physical distancing, wearing a mask and using hand sanitizer immediately upon entering the building. Visitors and volunteers will not be allowed to visit FSPS campuses or interact with students, and the district will work with its Partners in Education and mentors to develop virtual ways partners and mentors can connect with students. Public reception desks at elementary and junior high schools will be equipped with Plexiglass shields. Reception desks at the high schools will be equipped with the shields as office construction projects are completed.

Until further notice, staff and students will not be able to order food from outside food vendors. In the classroom, efforts will be made to provide space for distancing while not limiting students ability to interact with others in the classroom. Also, FSPS will provide facemasks to faculty and students in anticipation they will be required.

“Staff and students are welcome to wear their own masks. We will continue to follow state and local guidance on this topic,” the plan states.

Van Buren Public Schools VBSD stated on its website that administrators continue to prepare for the 2020-21 school year and will update parents on procedures and learning options.

“Families will be able to choose between a blended learning model that will include on-site instruction at VBSD campuses, or the River Valley Virtual Academy, VBSD’s online conversion charter school. Parents will be provided with details on how and when to respond to the District with their preferred method of learning,” the VBPS website states.

River Valley Virtual Academy is an accredited, public charter school. It is an online version of a traditional K-12 school that transfers all courses and learning tools into a digital format.

“As we are all aware, the COVID-19 situation is continually evolving, but our first priority remains on the overall health and well-being of our students and staff. We appreciate everyone’s continued patience and perseverance as we navigate this unique time,” the VBSP website states.

Greenwood Public School’s website said the district will have a plan for the school year posted by the end of the week.