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School districts boosting eLearning programs to help teachers, students stay at home

Posted at 5:50 AM, Jul 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-27 08:20:35-04

TAMPA, Fla. — As COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States, more schools are growing remote learning programs to help teachers and staff stay home while children learn remotely.

When Janet Rinaldi's large family was thrust into eLearning, it was far from easy.

"The end of the school year last year was chaotic and crazy," she said.

Janet Rinaldi's large family worked to try and make eLearning work for them at the end of the last school year.

Her entire family was packed in the house, in quarantine, trying to complete assignments remotely.

"Especially my daughter, with her IEP (Individual Education Program), she struggles," Rinaldi said.

Rinaldi's daughter falls asleep after a day struggling with eLearning. She has an Individual Education Program that allows for extra accommodations when submitting assignments. However, that IEP wasn't recognized during the last round of eLearning.

But school districts across the country are now promising families like Rinaldi's major improvements to remote learning for the upcoming year.

Hillsborough County School leaders said eLearning curriculums will be much more consistent from day to day.

"In the new model, students will follow a regular school schedule where daily attendance and participation is required. Elearning will have live instruction by teachers much like a regular school day," said Supt. Addison Davis.

There are also big differences in how an eLearning school day will look like depending on your child's age.

In one district's sample schedule, a kindergarten student will spend much more time engaged in group activities with a live teacher.

However, with a high school student, they will begin the school hour with a live teacher, but will likely then transition into independent work time.

Online learning platforms like Canvas K-12 are making adjustments to keep elementary students especially engaged.

"We've added some celebration features that give students kudos for turning in assignments," said Jen Mitchell with Canvas K-12. "Those little things really make a difference when we're looking to keep younger learners engaged."

Keep in mind, school leaders tell us that some classes that just aren't conducive to eLearning, so parents will want to check with their districts about whether certain courses and extracurricular activities will be offered.

Additionally, if your student has an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, it's also good to check with your child's school and district to see about making accommodations for remote learning.

Rinaldi and her family are nervous about eLearning again this year.

"Every child has to have their own quiet place to be on school all-day," she said. "And then my husband and I are both working from home right now. So we need to fulfill our obligations too."

She says for them, eLearning feels like the safest option as COVID-19 spreads.