Distance-learning curriculum poised for March 30 launch

    Highland Elementary School, Crookston High School and Washington Elementary School will be handing out technology Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. for student’s upcoming distance learning, Highland Principal Chris Trostad told the Times during an interview this week.

    An instant alert was sent out to parents in the district with instructions for device and packet pick-up information, plus Trostad posted an instructional video on Facebook Wednesday.

    Those parents that need a device for their child (every child needs to have access to their own device as they don’t want multiple kids sharing one computer) can call their student’s school to arrange a time to pick up devices and packets. Phone numbers for Crookston Public Schools are: Highland 281-5600, CHS 281-2144, and Washington 281-2762.

    Trostad pointed out that kids attending the designated child care at Highland (for healthcare and “essential” workers), distance learning will be done at the school during the day so parents don’t have to handle that once the child is picked up and goes home.

SCHOOL BOARD COMMENTS

    During this week’s Crookston School Board meeting, board member Mike Theis asked Superintendent Jeremy Olson if students/families would be liable at all for broken or damaged devices and was told there is paperwork families will sign, but Olson understands that “accidents could/will happen”, and that the district isn't going to focus too much on “cracking down” on families in the event some ChromeBooks are damaged or broken.

    “Will there will be safeguards in the devices preventing students from accessing "inappropriate content" on the internet?” wondered board member Patty Dillabough.

    “The district puts safeguards in place that are effective under the school wifi umbrella, but when students are on their own wifi at home, the district's ability to limit what they access on the internet is limited,” Olson answered. "We'll lock down what we can, but when they're on their own internet, it really limits what we can do.”

    School board member Dave Davidson voiced his concerns about students having even more screen time due to distance learning than in the classroom and Olson agreed but said “it’s tough to remedy at this point.”

    When asked by school board member Tim Dufault about “actual assignments’ that students need to turn in, Olson says the plan seeks to incorporate “as little paper transmission as possible” because “paper spreads germs.” He also mentioned situations where students take photos of their completed assignments and send it to their teachers.

    “I want to give a shout-out to the teachers and staff putting the distance learning plans together,” Olson added. "It's not an easy time. As educators they are relational people and they don't feel as connected now.”

    "We're asking staff to do distance education, something they've never done before so it's a little scary,” he continued.

    Olson pointed out that they’re still working with special education teachers to try to provide those special education students with a quality distance education experience as well.

    “Teachers and staff are currently working their way through many, many questions, and coming up with great answers,” Olson stated. "As I see what they're coming up with, I see that there's a lot of thought. They're not just throwing everything up online and being done with it."

    He added that administration is lending a “guiding hand” as needed, but stressed that the teachers are driving the planning.

DISTANCE LEARNING GRADE-BY-GRADE

    Trostad said preparing for distance learning has been a challenge, especially for teachers of younger students like kindergartners. He says they can’t expect younger students to work solely online, so there will be packets available for those students.

    “A big piece that I’d like to get out to parents, too, is that our teachers are preparing to teach the kids,” Trostad added. “I think there’s a little bit of misunderstanding from a couple community members I’ve talked to thinking that the parent’s job is to teach the kids and it’s not the parent’s job it’s the teacher’s job to teach the kids.”

    Trostad said over the eight-day shutdown, teachers and staff have been preparing how distance learning will work and says parents may need to help kids log in to Gmail and then into the programs they’ll use such as Google Classroom or Seesaw.

    “There will be a tutorial, step-by-step instructions on how to get your kid into these programs,” Trostad continued. “Once you get in there, a lot of kids have been using them in class, they’re probably going to be teaching a lot of parents things.”

    “Our teachers are also on the clock from 7:45 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. at the elementary levels,” he added. “Those teachers will be communicating their schedules with parents and teachers will be available on the telephone, through email, live chat request.”

    “We really want the daily interaction to be between the teacher and the student. We still need to take attendance and will be primarily based off of are the kids interacting with the teacher. In some situations, you might see the teachers do in Google Classroom where all the kids log in at the same time and the teacher teaches. If the student has a question they can put in a live chat request with the teacher to make sure they can communicate directly with the teacher.”