Saturday, October 31, 2020

SASD mulls instructional plan for virtual classes

The Curriculum/Instruction Committee for the Sparta Area School District recently recommended the full board approve the instructional plan for Sparta Virtual Learning Academy, (SVLA) which was presented to them by Director of 

Teaching and Learning Jodi Brueggeman last week.

SVLA is a high quality, home-based virtual learning opportunity for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade. The program provides a public school option to families who prefer a flexible, home-based learning environment for their 

children.

The district currently has over 425 students enrolled in the virtual academy for the 2020-2021 school year. Brueggeman explained there has been interest from across the student population; the numbers of enrollment are reaching into 

the high 20s/low 30s from all grade levels. 

After enrollment for SVLA closed last week, the district was expected to begin finalizing staffing. 

“I currently have a minimum of 21 staff members that are interested in being teachers,” Brueggeman said. “I will also work with the principals to determine the best way to use our current staff in staffing our virtual learning academy.”

The instructional plan for SVLA includes the same plan as in-building learning as well as grading and credits. Some of the benefits of the virtual academy include flexible attendance based on progress and contact with the teachers and a 

similar pacing of materials so if the students determine they would like to return to in-building learning, they will be at a similar spot in the semester/trimester as their peers. 

“We’re really looking for that consistent contact with our students as teachers,” Brueggeman added. 

Teachers will create a daily schedule and provide both live opportunities for students and independent learning for students. 

If a student is unavailable for the live lessons, other instructional videos will be available for them as well. 

Lessons may include practice activities, collaboration opportunities with peers, small group work and designated time for individualized assistance. Students will have some flexibility in how they structure their daily learning, and should 

work collaboratively with the online teacher for individualized learning needs.

Teachers with the virtual academy are expected to provide all learning activities within the learning management system, which is Schoology.

Students in grades 5 through 12 can log in to Schoology and they’ll be able to see everything they need. For younger students in grades PreK through 4, the district will be offering SeeSaw where students will have access to instructional 

videos, teacher messages, instructions, activities and assessments. 

Teachers will be able to track the amount of time students are logged into the learning management systems, as well as their progress and the work they are turning in.

“We’ll be able to see how long students are in the platform, but we really want to look at their progress,” Brueggeman explained. “How are they progressing? How can we give them appropriate feedback? How can we support their learning 

in the virtual platform?”

Clear expectations will be set by the online teacher and communicated to students and families at the beginning of the course. Failure to attend or make reasonable progress may result in having the course dropped, which may limit future 

online courses offered to the student.

Nancy Sikorsky, the committee chair, asked how much time teachers will have to devote to the virtual learning academy and clarification on what their responsibilities would be beyond the virtual academy.

“Some of our teachers will be dedicated just to the virtual learning academy,” Brueggeman responded. “Currently, we have 35 third graders enrolled in the virtual academy and I would expect one third grade teacher to manage all of those 

third grade students. They may even divide those 35 students into smaller groups to deliver instructional pieces.”

Teachers will also be connecting with students through Zoom for scheduled live lessons. District assessments, intervention and other supports are going to be available to virtual students. 

According to Brueggeman, the virtual academy will also be offering special education services, specialized instruction, 504 plans and EL services.  

For more information on SVLA, student, family and/or teacher responsibilities and expectations, please visit the district’s website at https://www.spartan.org/updates/sparta-virtual-learning-academy.

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