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School District reports near 90 percent student-teacher contact rate for first week of distance learning

By Staff | Apr 3, 2020

The School District of Lee County reports that teachers were able to reach nearly 90 percent of their students overall during the first week of distance learning, a number officials say is a big score en route to the goal of 100 percent.

The goal of the first week of distance learning was for the teachers to get in touch with their students either by phone, email, or through distance learning.

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jeff Spiro said they are more than pleased that the percentage of students teachers were able to get into contact with was 88.3 percent.

“I am over-the-moon excited,” Spiro said, adding that percentage has to do with diligence of their teachers reaching out and finding their students.

Non-classroom teachers were also assigned to groups of students, making the initial contact with students a team effort.

“We are very happy. Our goal is 100 percent of our students to be in contact with. For the first five days of school we are at 88.3 percent. We are thrilled,” Spiro said. “It’s definitely a win for our students.”

The first week of distance learning also went off with no major glitches, he said, adding they did not experience some of the technical issues other counties experienced.

“We use Google as our platform and that worked out very well for us,” he said.

When breaking that percentage down further, the percentage of students teachers spoke with over the phone, through email, or distance learning was 95 percent for elementary students, 87 percent for middle school students and 79 percent for high school students.

School Development Executive Director of High Schools Clayton Simmons said Friday the goal is to reach every high school student that has not been reached by the end of the day.

“We are really proud of our teachers. They have literally called students and families one-by-one,” School Development Executive Director for Elementary School Shanna Flecha said, adding that they are sharing the love. “We want to make sure our kids are OK. That was the major goal of this past week.”

Spiro said the schools were very dogmatic in reaching out to the families.

Balance was what went well during the first week of distance learning for students. Spiro said parents were understanding how balance works in the household.

Spiro said they are really making sure the district schools are looking at the amount of work that is assigned for students, and whether it is appropriate for the grade level, age and can be completed in a reasonable amount of time.

The theme has been flexibility around families, as well as ease for teachers, while continuing to maintain a balance.

Flecha said for elementary school that balance is 30 minutes a day per classroom area. For example, that would be 30 minutes for English language arts, 30 minutes for math and 30 minutes for science.

“That is what we have shared, guidelines for teachers,” Flecha said.

School Development Executive Director for Middle School Linda Maere said the same applies for middle school and high school. She said during the first week of distance learning, some of the teaches pushed down a whole week of work for students.

“Now the students are understanding they don’t have to do it every night, they have the entire week,” to complete the work,” Maere said.

Simmons said there was a little bit of confusion for high school students, again thinking all work had to be done on day one when they actually had all week to do it.

“The kids are really doing well at this point,” Simmons said, adding that the schedule for high school students reflects what they are used to with certain classes held on one day and another on other days.

He said they are monitoring and making sure the amount of work is appropriate.

The students of Lee County are using Google Classrooms for distance learning.

Candace Allevato, director of curriculum for high school, said all of the district’s teachers have created Google Classrooms for their students and are working hard on its structure. She said there is a syllabus for the kids, which includes “chunking out” assignments and what each day should look like.

Allevato said the teachers provide the assignment and the students work at their pace. She said with elementary students, Google Classrooms provides parents with guidance of how long the assignments should take.

There also is communication provided through Google Classrooms, offering parents and guardians the opportunity to provide comments.

Allevato said there is ongoing professional development for Google Classrooms, which includes real time support as teachers are setting up their classroom. She said part of that development includes how to organize the classroom, as well as managing assignments and utilizing deadlines.

Spiro said at the end of distance learning, it will open the doors for the future, such as supporting students who have challenging situations.

“Out of challenging situations, fruit of beautiful possibilities occur,” he said.

With the first week of distant learning in the books, looking forward Spiro said it is important to continue to maintain a schedule. He said it is also important to stay in contact with teachers during their office hours.

In addition, Spiro advises parents to monitor Focus, where grades will be submitted, on a weekly basis to understand their child’s academic progress.

“Don’t let your child sit in front of the screen for six and a half hours,” he said, adding that other activities should be included outside of academics, such as learning an instrument or going outdoors.

With distance learning, there has been additional costs, such as the district purchasing an additional 3,000 hot spots. Spiro said the hot spots were purchased for those in the community who do not have access to the internet.

“We want as many students connected as possible,” he said.

Another additional cost was the purchase of Chrome books. There have been 14,791 Chromebooks distributed, which were for elementary families that did not have a home computer, or sibling with a Chromebook. When adding middle and high school issued Chromebooks, that number increases to 62,000 Chromebooks in the community.

Spiro said in seven days they went from teaching 96,000 students face-to-face to having 62,000 Chromebooks in the district to set up distance learning to move forward with education.

Spiro said he could not be more proud of his team, as there were many hands that went into creating the amazing plan of distance learning for the students. He said he is also proud of the teachers willingness to embrace distance learning.

“This has been a challenging endeavor, but a very rewarding endeavor for students and teachers,” Spiro said.