SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — Earlier this summer, Caddo Parish School District sent a survey to families to gauge which learning model they were going to choose for the upcoming school year, among a few other things.
Keith Burton, the district’s chief academic officer, says as of this morning, 82% of the district’s families have responded and 52% have said they are choosing virtual learning.
“As you know, in middle school and high school, those students have the option of a hybrid day,” Burton said. “So they can come on either an A day or B day. Then we will always be able to bring certain students in on Friday if needed. But any of our students, kindergarten through 12th grade, have the opportunity to be a virtual student. We are asking for a 9-week commitment to make sure we are properly training staff and building all the logistics of schedules and staffing to make sure we are prepared for everyone that first day of school.”
The survey does not show the percentage of students choosing to go virtual per grade, but by which school they attend.
Due to potential connectivity issues, it was thought more students in rural areas of the parish would choose to attend school through the hybrid-model, but Burton says those students are choosing which learning model to use around the same percentage as other areas on average.
“You know, we thought that would be the pattern, but we’re really not seeing that as much,” Burton said. “We were really concerned about every family having internet connectivity. Some of our rural areas are about at the district average. What we are finding is more our our inner-city schools, primarily those schools in parts of the community that were most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, those are the schools were we are seeing have a higher amount select to go full virtual learning.”
When it comes to frequently asked questions to the district about the upcoming school year concerning learning models, it circles a lot around how much parents are able to do.
“From a parents perspective, it’s how much flexibility am I going to have,” Burton said. “One of the things most concerning to us is ensuring our parents and our community know the challenges of virtual learning. Virtual learning is tough. It was tough for me in college when I took some virtual graduate courses. It’s definitely tough for an elementary, middle, or high school student. Even though we have prepared to make sure we have a great learning system, which we feel like we do in Canvas, we have also provided a lot of training to ensure there is a high level of engagement with the types of materials, types of instruction that we are providing.
“It’s still going to be difficult because it’s not face-to-face, so because of that you kind of lose that connectivity, that dynamic between teacher and student. So we want families to understand those challenges. They also need to know grading is still going to go on. We don’t want to lower the expectations for anyone. Students are still going to be responsible for deadlines, taking tests, quizzes, turning papers in. We’ve spent months preparing to launch school with a strong virtual model, so we want families to understand that if their student doesn’t log in, they are going to be counted absent. It’s going to be important for everyone to communicate with their teacher and ask questions.”
Some parents submitted questions to the Caddo School District, like ‘Will PE, art, and music be normal?‘
“It really depends on the age of the child,” Burton said. “It will also depend on the school. If I am a virtual student, will I still have the opportunity to receive art instruction? Most definitely. But what does P.E look like if I am a virtual student? That P.E. teacher may provide activities that I can do at home that will count towards, and I may have to log me staying active or completing certain exercises. But P.E., art, music, all are going to look so different and again it depends on what grade level and it also depends on what phase we are in.”
Another question is how is the district going to work with special education students with IEPs?
“We will ensure that we are in constant communication and we started this summer making sure we are reaching out to those parents,” Burton said. “We are encouraging them, based on their individual student needs, that we are placing them in the environment that is most comfortable and appropriate for them. We still have staff that will be able to support those students, whether that means for students receiving therapy, there may be students receiving paraprofessional support and those are still available.”
One parent asked when will devices, like Chromebooks, be available for pick-up? Burton says as early as next week.
“Principals will be contacting the parents,” Burton said. “Pick ups actually begin next week. There has been some delay in the shipment of new devices, so we have had to get really creative when it comes to prioritizing the inventory we have now. We are making sure those students who need the devices the most get them. The main thing is if a family already has a device at home, use that one. You’re comfortable with it, the child knows it, the parent knows it, if you have internet that shouldn’t be an issue. If you need a device later one, then we would be able to provide you with one. We want to make sure we are prioritizing giving the devices we have in inventory to the families that selected virtual and do not have a device. We want to make sure they get the devices first.”
Burton says if families have additional questions, they can go to CaddoSchools.org, select the ‘Let’s Talk’ section, a question can be asked and the person will be directed to who can best answer that question.
He says if families have a specific question about their school, they can contact the school’s principal.
The first day of school for the district is August 24.