Thompson School Board eyes future of online learning – Loveland Reporter-Herald
The Thompson School Board heard an update on the district’s online programming as a number of teachers, students and community members took to the podium to call on the board to continue programming online which has been expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic.
District staff presented a plan for the next school year to the board at its bi-weekly meeting Wednesday night that would consolidate the district’s online learning program into three schools, Lincoln Elementary School, Walt Clark Middle School and Thompson Valley High. School.
While online learning existed to some degree before the pandemic, COVID-19 necessitated the expansion of education outside of physical classrooms, an expansion that now risks receding as relief measures in the event of a pandemic expire.
The Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund (ESSR) funded much of the expansion of online learning by funding the hiring of new teachers.
“It was funded entirely by ESSR dollars,” said Tracy Stegall, executive director of teaching and learning for the district. “Those ESSR dollars ended in May of this year.”
Household surveys in the district have shown considerable interest in online continuing education. Of 138 respondents, 53 households, or 39%, said they would be interested in keeping their students in online learning if they continued to have concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, while an additional 65 respondents , or 47%, said they would be interested in online learning for other reasons.
Stegall said the survey data is somewhat difficult to decipher because respondents are households, not individual students, and some households may have more than one student. It’s also difficult to determine exactly how many households might have concerns about COVID-19 at any given time.
“We want to be able to implement whatever is possible under the constraints we currently have with competing priorities across the district,” Stegall said.
A number of teachers who work in the online program have spoken out in favor of finding a way to continue the program in its current form, saying their students benefit from being able to learn online for a number of reasons. .
It is expected that the school board will discuss the matter further at a later date.
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