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Virtual options: Taylor puts focus on accountability

Vast majority of students to return to in-person classes Aug. 12

  • 2 min to read
Smith

SMITH

While more than 90 percent of Taylor School Corporation students had enrolled in in-person classes as of last week, the corporation is working to ensure those choosing virtual options will be held accountable for keeping up with the classwork.

The corporation is offering alternative options to returning to school for those who have health concerns or don’t feel comfortable returning yet due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Students in grades K-4 can choose e-Learning, while grades 5-12 could opt-in for alternative learning. Taylor Superintendent Christopher Smith said students choosing the alternative options will be held accountable for completing the work, in an effort to ensure all Taylor students still will receive quality educations.

With plans now in place ahead of the start of the school year next week, Smith said he's proud of what his team has developed.

“I have an administrative team of about 11, 12 people … so we worked as a team and put this (plan) together as a team, and it’s awesome,” said Smith. “I’m really proud of everybody, and we worked with the teachers … They want face-to-face. They really do. They miss kids, and they love kids. But they also want to be safe, and they want kids to be safe.”

As of last week, 1,258 students have been enrolled for the school year. A little more than 60 elementary students enrolled for e-Learning, while 20 had enrolled for alternative learning at the middle-school level and eight at the high-school level.

Students in the e-Learning program will complete classwork just like traditional e-Learning days that have been ongoing at Taylor for several years. Smith said an emphasis had been put on e-Learning long before the pandemic, and students, for the most part, have been successful with it.

“Taylor has always been really good with e-Learning. Each year we use six days for professional development, and we get good turnout, good attendance. We give kids two days to turn all their work in,” said Smith. “If we need to reevaluate and go longer on a unit, we do that so we can help make sure our kids are learning.”

Attendance is tracked by the completion of work, and historically, Smith said completion rates always are in the 90-percent range at the elementary and high school levels and in the high 80- and 90-percent range at the middle school level.

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For middle and high school students, the alternative learning program will virtually put them in the classroom. Classes will be recorded live, and students learning virtually will be required to log in during the time the class is in session and participate in roll call just as if they were in class.

“They will have to check in. We’ll take attendance like we would if they were in class with our Skyward student management program, and if they’re not there, then the administration will be working to find out why. If they want their credit and if they want to learn, they need to attend,” said Smith.

Though the alternative programs are in place, Smith said the ultimate goal is to have all students work their way back to face-to-face instruction. But, should a student wish to change from face-to-face instruction during the school year, they will be able to set up a meeting with administration to make the change.

On campus, many precautions have been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Smith said an emphasis has been put on finding ways to keep students six feet apart. While this won’t be possible in all situations, different, larger areas of the school will be used as classrooms in some situations.

“For 5 to 12, we’ll utilize the cafeteria. We’ll utilize the gym, and we’ve even set up some really nice seating in the hallway by the cafeteria. So we’re really happy. We’re going to have the bleachers in the middle school gym set up,” Smith said. “We’re doing everything possible to be six feet away, but that’s not the case in every situation.”

The field house, middle school gym, Titan Annex gym, and the main gym will be used at times for classrooms to allow for social distancing.

Touchless water fountains also are being installed, and plexiglass partitions have been installed on buses and in various areas throughout the buildings.

Smith said he and his team continue to monitor the situation and make changes to plans as necessary.

The 2020-21 school year at Taylor School Corporation begins Aug. 12.