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Remote learning will be different in the fall

Susan Dargie, WPS director of curriculum and instruction (THE WESTFIELD NEWS FILE PHOTO)

WESTFIELD – During Monday’s School Committee meeting, Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski and Susan Dargie, director of curriculum and instruction said remote learning in the fall will be different.

“We know that remote learning needs to be structured, rigorous and consistent.  We will follow a regular school day, attendance will be taken, assessments will be made and assignments will be graded,” Dargie said.

She said the district is committed to providing technology and connectivity for all students.  Wifi hotspots will be set up in the homes of families who are not connected to the internet, and the district will pay for the annual service contracts.  All students will receive Chromebooks, she said.

Information Technology Manager Lenore J. Bernashe said by October, the Westfield School District will be 1:1 for all students, when the final order of Chromebooks comes in.  “We are very close to one to one with the devices we have right now,” Bernashe said. She said a rough count of the devices in the district right now is 4,200 Chromebooks, and another 800 just came in to the Technology Center. “That puts us right around 5,000,” she said.

Bernashe also said the Wi-Fi devices will be ready to go by mid-September, and they will be identifying students who need them for their houses as access.

Dargie said remote learning will take place through Google Classroom for the district.  “We know from talking to parents and teachers that having a consistent platform and compatible tools that allow everyone to be connected, and allows parents to support students is important,” she said.

Dargie said all teaching tools will be accessed through Google Classroom.  She said during the spring shutdown, technology tools to enhance the learning process were offered free of charge, but they are no longer free and have a per student and per teacher cost.  She said the staff used a wide variety of tools in the spring, which have been researched through an instruction subcommittee that has chosen the ones to purchase for all remote learning.

“We will provide staff training in all of these tools and in Google Classroom for all of our staff,” Dargie said. She said the 10 days that were added for professional development for teachers at the start of school will be beneficial to train staff, and training sessions on the Google platforms will be required.  Other training, including social and emotional learning and social distancing will be optional during that time.

“We do not want students on screen six hours a day. We need to have a balance between online and offline learning,” Dargie said, including a balance between screen time, and students reading actual texts and worksheets, which the district will need to provide.  She said schedules will vary by level with set times for students to meet online with teachers and classmates.

Dargie said online learning will include direct instruction, modeling and demonstrations, and collaborative work. Offline work will be for independent projects and practice.  “It’s going to be great,” she said.  

Czaporowski said there will still be college and career opportunities for upper level students.  He said there will be opportunities for students to continue cooperative learning, and also for seniors to complete their remaining credits in one semester.  He said the district will also encourage students to take advantage of dual enrollment opportunities in area colleges.

“These options have always been available to our students, and are available again,” he said.

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