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Sept. 20, 2020

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Battle Ground district details remote start plans for school year

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published:

The Battle Ground Public Schools Board of Directors on Monday unanimously approved a remote start to the 2020-2021 school year — albeit with reservations.

Several Clark County school districts this week are slated to adopt remote learning plans as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to rise. District officials had hoped to reopen school buildings at the beginning of the school year, but they now say it’s unsafe to do.

Battle Ground school board members adopted a plan Monday that administrators say will build on the work of the spring, improving access to remote learning and making it easier for teachers and families to support their students.

“I have no doubts that we can do this, that we can do online learning and we can do it well,” Assistant Superintendent Denny Waters said.

But board member Monty Anderson had misgivings about the program, saying he is concerned about students’ emotional health while separated from their school buildings.

“I don’t have any confidence, based upon the plan, that it’s going to be successful,” Anderson said.

Board members also noted the plan is subject to change, and asked for regular updates from district administrators and Clark County Public Health in hopes of moving to an in-person schedule later this school year.

Here are the key takeaways from the district’s learning plan:

What will my child’s day look like?

Students will largely be split into what the district is calling “synchronous time” and “asynchronous time” — essentially the difference between classroom instruction versus independent work.

At the primary school level, students will be split into one of two groups. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, students will rotate between periods of live, video instruction and individual or small group activities.

Mike Michaud, the district’s director of instructional leadership for early childhood education and primary schools, said teachers struggled to manage a group of more than 20 students virtually. Separating students into two groups should ease those challenges, he said.

Wednesdays will be more fluid, with students largely working independently on work assigned by their teachers. Students will also have a chance during those days to meet with teachers, work in small groups, discuss grades and more.

Middle and high schools will follow a similar split, with students in half of their six classes via live video instruction in the mornings, followed by independent work for the other half in the afternoon. Classes will rotate on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays set aside for independent work and meetings with teachers.

What about grading and attendance?

Battle Ground will take daily attendance during live instruction periods.

Middle and high school students will receive grades of A through D, with incompletes given instead of Fs. Students must be given multiple chances to make up assessments before receiving an F.

Students whose grades drop to 70 percent or less will be the subject of an intervention by teachers, who will follow up to try to figure out the root cause of their poor grades.

What’s the district doing outside of academics?

The district will continue to offer lunch on campus. Students receiving free- or reduced-price lunches can grab a meal for free, while those who normally pay for lunches will have to do so in the fall.

The district is also developing a Parent Academy — professional development for parents on the applications and material students are learning in class. Some video instruction is posted online at bit.ly/bgparentvideos.

Tutors, an assignment helpline, technology support and other programs will also be offered for students.

What’s still to come?

Questions remain about how the district will provide special education services to students.

Ellen Wiessner, the district’s director of special services, said the district will be providing all the services outlined in a student’s Individualized Education Program, a legally binding document outlining what extra support a student is supposed to receive. That means if a student is guaranteed 25 minutes of extra reading instruction in a school week, the district will provide that remotely.

Wiessner said a limited number of special education students will be eligible for in-person instruction; the details, and safety measures, are still being worked out, she said.

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