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 Original article can be found at The Winchester Star.

By Mickey Powell; August 26, 2020

BERRYVILLE — Various options will be made available to help students without home internet service complete their online studies when the new school year starts Sept. 8, the Clarke County School Board learned Monday night.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, middle and high school students in Clarke County Public Schools will learn 100% virtually, the board decided last week. They will use both synchronous and asynchronous techniques. Synchronous learning occurs in real time — students and teachers interact in a specific virtual place, through a specific online medium, at a standard time. Asynchronous learning involves students completing tasks on their own at different times and locations.

Elementary students can participate in a virtual academy or they can attend classes at their schools two days a week and do asynchronous learning on the other three days.

 

Students at all grade levels will need the internet either to regularly participate in classes online or periodically download assignments and learning materials.

“We know we’re going to have to be flexible” with students when they are learning asynchronously, said Cathy Seal, the division’s curriculum and instruction director.

Students without Chromebooks can be loaned one. Parents should first contact their child’s principal, who will put them in touch with a library media specialist, said Assistant Superintendent Rick Catlett.

Chromebooks will be necessary for certain lessons and tests, said Instructional Technology Supervisor Patrick Hausammann.

“Internet cafés” will operate from 5-7 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays at Boyce Elementary School and 5-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays at Clarke County High School. Students won’t be able to do lessons there, but they can download assignments or upload completed work.

Public Wi-Fi will continue to be available around the clock at Johnson-Williams Middle School. The signal will be transmitted to the rear parking lot and front bus loop. Students will be able to sit in their vehicles and download and return assignments or check their school-related emails.

The Wi-Fi network name is EnGenius 2.4GHZ, and no password is required. However, the school division is not guaranteeing the quality of the signal or network speed.

A second public Wi-Fi site is to be established at Boyce Elementary. The school division is working with county officials to establish other Wi-Fi sites elsewhere, Seal said.

Also, the division has purchased Kajeet hotspots to loan to students without internet access. Hotspots won’t support streaming or live instruction, but they will provide access to Google services, including Google Classroom.

Having access to a strong wireless internet signal is necessary to use a hotspot, according to Seale.

Two websites have been set up to help students and parents understand technology-related matters. They are:

Daily class attendance and engagement in learning activities online will be monitored, Catlett said. Administrators will handle any student’s prolonged “lack of engagement,” he said.

Seale said that when students are in classes, teachers will focus on in-person learning and not online lessons to give them a break from staring at computer screens.

Similarly, students learning entirely online will have learning activities they can do away from the computer. Middle and high school students will have 15 minutes between classes to stretch their legs or rest, according to Debbie Biggs, supervisor of secondary curriculum and instruction.

A full summary of how the learning options will be conducted is on the school division’s website at clarke.k12.va.us. Go to the school board section, click on “school board” and then “board meeting agendas, packets and minutes.” Then go to the Aug. 24 meeting agenda. The summary is under item 6 (unfinished business) at “Update on Return to School Planning.”

Information also will be emailed to parents, officials said.

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