Aspen schools to stay the course — online learning starting next week |

Aspen schools to stay the course — online learning starting next week

Students enrolled in the Aspen School District will need to dust off their Chromebooks and other learning devices by Wednesday.

That’s when the district will introduce online learning plans from kindergarten through 12th grade, after shutting down classes because of coronavirus from March 16 to 20. Class is out this week, Monday and Tuesday for spring break. The schools will remain closed through at least April 17.

The remote learning program won’t have students and teachers interacting online simultaneously. Instead, “teachers will develop and post content that students will access on their own time and work at their own pace,” according to an explanation of the program Interim Superintendent Tom Heald provided the school community through an email March 20.

Through the approach of “asynchronous learning,” teachers won’t be piling assignments on the students, who will be allowed to work at their own pace. “Teachers will focus on the major work of the grade and the most important content, standards and skills,” the explanation said.

The program says that teachers must make their expectations clear to students and work a minimum of four hours a day. It also considers the barriers some households might have, be they internet limitations or sick family members, for instance.

The district is seeking information from parents about their households’ technological challenges. The district also is creating a Wi-Fi zone in one of its school parking lots so students can download class material from their vehicles, Heald said.

First-grade students and up at the elementary school are provided Chromebooks they keep at school; middle school students receive Chromebook they can bring home. High school students use their personal devices.

Heald said parents will receive more information about the program in an email Friday.

“This is unchartered waters,” he said Thursday, “and we know that for kids particularly that the human connection is crucial, so we really want to enforce and re-enforce the opportunity for students to connect with their teachers and with each other.”

The disruption caused by coronavirus won’t derail seniors on track to graduate, Heald said.

“The state provides a lot of flexibility for each school district to navigate graduation requirements,” he said.

The school district wasn’t prepared to provide online learning at the time it shut down. Heald said teachers and the tech team have used that time to educate themselves on remote learning.

“At that time we mobilized all the teams and said we need to get ready for the long haul,” he said. “April 17 is the date but let’s plan for the long haul now.”

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