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Schools begin new distance learning plan

By Staff | Mar 19, 2020

Updated post:

The School District of Lee County has updated its Chromebook Distribution Plan.

“The first day of Chromebook Distribution was such a success, the School District of Lee County is now ready to sign out Chromebooks to Kindergarten through 2nd grade students on Saturday, March 21st,” a release from the district issued Friday morning states. “K-2 students will pick up Chromebooks at the school they attend between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

Chromebooks will only be distributed to K-2nd graders who meet the following criteria:

Do not have an older sibling already issued a District Chromebook in grades 3-12

Do not have a computer of any type in the home

Third graders were picking up Chromebooks Friday morning, with the afternoon set aside for third through fifth graders who could not make it Thursday or Friday morning.

Original post:

With students not returning to their classrooms until next month, the School District of Lee County has begun distributing Chromebooks to students.

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jeff Spiro said with the governor announcing Tuesday that schools would be closed until the earliest date, April 15, the district needed to provide instructional continuity for students.

“Our team has been monitoring what has been happening across the world. We began working on our plans a week ago. I have an amazing team, they have been working all last week, weekend and late into the nights. Our educators have a heart for students. Everything we are doing is what is best for kids, easy for our teachers and appropriate for our community,” Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said in a letter to parents announcing the second extension of spring break.

Beginning Monday, teachers will have the opportunity to participate in professional development for the Chromebooks, including how to create a Google classroom, engage in Google Hangout, which allows teachers to speak directly with their students, and Chatbox.

Spiro said everybody will know by today where and what their work will look like. He said they have either face-to-face, or virtual professional development support in place.

Google tools, distant learning, approach might be a new experience for some teachers, he added.

“We want our teachers to be lifelong learners,” Spiro said. “We continue to ask the community to have patience and communicate with us. Our community is already coming together.”

The virtual component for students for learning will be done via the Chromebooks.

The Chromebooks will be distributed only to certain students in need — only for those in third, fourth, and fifth grade who do not have an older sibling already issued a district Chromebook in grades six through 12 and those know do not have a computer of any type at home.

Chomebook distributions will be held at the school the student attends with the first distribution held Thursday for fifth graders.

Distribution will continue Friday, March 20, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. for third graders for last names beginning with A through M and from 10 a.m. to noon for third graders with last names beginning with N through Z.

For families who were unable to pick up Chromebooks on Thursday, an additional pick up will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, March 20 for grades third through fifth. On Saturday, March 21 the additional pick up will be held from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. for grades third through fifth for families who were unable to pick up Chromebooks on Thursday and Friday.

Next week Chromebooks will be signed out for kindergarten through second grade students meeting the same criteria. Middle and high school students already have Chromebooks issued by the district. The schedule will be issued through School Messenger and posted online at www.leeschools.net/COVID-19.

For students needing internet access, Comcast has launched program enhancements for those needing internet service during the coronavirus crisis. This program is for low-income families in Comcast service areas that are enrolled in Title 1 schools; enrolled in HUD Housing; and families receiving support from MEDICAID, public housing assistance, SNAP, TANF; SSI; NSLP/Head Start; LIHEAP; WIC; VA Pension and Tribal assistance.

These families who sign up as a new customer can receive 60 days of complimentary internet.

For more information, visit www.leeschools.net/student_services/global_lee/low_cost_home_internet.

The Chromebook offers opportunities such as a Google classroom model, as well as all the other regular school apps and instructional guides available to them all year round, Spiro said. All of these learning opportunities will support the district’s academic plans, academic maps and instructional guides while mirroring the students grade levels and standards they are expected to master.

Spiro said since they are asking families to share Chromebooks, teachers will have scheduled office hours available to students to discuss things such as questions about assignments.

Spiro said with distance learning, the district’s goal is to continue to focus on the whole child. He said the hope is that parents monitor the screen time of the child.

“We certainly do not expect kids to sit in front of the computer for six and a half hours,” Spiro said, adding that the child needs a brain break.

With the plan of students eventually returning to school, it is going to be a very fluid process for their families and students, he said.

There also is the opportunity for families to pick up 10-day packets of instructional materials at their child’s school if they choose not to use computer-based learning.

The 10-day packet includes enrichment activities that are grade level appropriate. The packet can be done at home, at a self-directed pace because they do not have the virtual capability.

With the packet, a check-in system will be put into place, providing teachers with the opportunity to check in with the student on a regular basis. This also includes non-classroom teachers, such as athletic directors, behavioral specialist and multi-intervention support persons.

“Those individuals will be assigned students to check in to make sure they are turning in work and making sure they are okay,” Spiro said.

Students, during this distance learning period, will also have the opportunity to access a school counselor at any time for such things as requesting food for the student’s family, or just having someone to talk with. The school counselor and student will determine the best way to communicate, either through talking on the phone, or virtual capabilities.

Next week, the district will push out resources for parents for further enrichment.

Spiro said one of the things that they have seen across the entire state is many companies opening up their materials.

“We collected the resources, vetted them and will push them out to parents next week,” Spiro said.

In addition, another change this year is students no longer have to take the FSA and EOC state assessments for graduation this year. Spiro said students need to focus on the work that is assigned to them, as well as teachers making sure that they are completing the work to continue on to the next grade level and graduation.

He said he believes the governor did the right thing by halting the testing and school grades, so communities can allow students to do virtual learning and focus on their grade level.

“We are in a once-in-a-lifetime unique situation that is changing hourly and we are having to adjust and adapt to ongoing changes,” Spiro said. “Just as we expect the students to adapt, we have to do the same things.”

He said he knows the district’s school leaders and teachers are going to miss their students during distance learning period.

“It’s all about relationships. Our teachers and principals love our kids,” Spiro said. “One part that is going to be hard is not seeing our little babies every day. It will be different for a lot of people, but short term. All of us are in this together. We will certainly persevere.”