Lawrence school board approves remote learning plan amid school closures for COVID-19 pandemic

photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence Board of Education meeting room at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, is pictured in this file photo from Feb. 25, 2019.

Although school buildings are closed and Lawrence students are learning online from remote settings, Superintendent Anthony Lewis told the Lawrence school board that the school district is still working hard to provide an education to local children.

“We want to make sure we are still able to give students as much of an academic benefit as if they were in our classrooms,” Lewis said.

The Lawrence school board on Thursday unanimously approved the district’s continuous learning program, which is its plan to make sure students are provided an education during a statewide shutdown of schools because of the coronavirus pandemic. The school district’s plan is already being implemented, as Lawrence schools resumed through online learning on Monday.

With the school board’s approval, the plan will be sent to the Kansas State Department of Education for review, which was required by April 8. The Kansas State Board of Education is expected to consider the plans for final approval on April 14.

Although school buildings are shut down statewide for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, the continuous learning programs are required by the state to allow each school district to waive the remaining hours of education required by law. The Lawrence school district requested to waive 281 hours of the 1,116 hours required by the law, which is about a quarter of a full school year.

Lewis told the school board the district’s plan is an online-based program that also includes supplemental materials, such as educational worksheets and other documents. He said students will also have access to “live” online lessons as well as prerecorded lessons and other content to be used at any time of the day. Additionally, the plan includes contingency learning plans for students with special needs and other students with individualized education programs.

Outside of academics, Lewis said the plan also needed to include methods of addressing the social and emotional needs of the students. One of the ways the school district is trying to do that is having all teachers reach out to their students to check in with them on a regular basis. Lewis said that could help make sure students are still engaged with their online learning as well as making sure they are in a safe learning environment. Lewis said the school district is also using its social workers and counselors to serve as liaisons to connect families with community services.

“While we know school is extremely important, we do recognize and understand there are some external pressures and challenges that we are all facing,” Lewis said.

The school district also knows there will be challenges in remote learning, such as making sure students have access to the internet. In a recent survey, about 300 families reported they either had no or unreliable internet service. Lewis said the school district is in contact with many of those families and working with them to help them find internet access, such as using the free internet provided by Midco for low-income students during the pandemic.

Another challenge is the “COVID slide,” which is a concern that students will see a regression in their education during the pandemic. Lewis said the school district is now working on what may happen when students are able to return to school buildings next school year and may not have retained their lessons as well as they would have under normal circumstances.

After approving the plan, the school board members thanked Lewis and the school district for crafting it on relatively short notice.

“It’s been a heavy lift; it’s impressive to see what you’ve done, and I’m really proud of your work,” board member Kelly Jones said.

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What to do if you think you may have COVID-19

Patients who have symptoms — difficulty breathing, cough and fever — should stay home, immediately isolate themselves from others and call their health care providers. Patients should never show up unannounced at a medical office or hospital. Instead, they should call ahead to explain their symptoms and give health care workers the ability to minimize the risk to others.

If patients do not have health care providers, they may call the Lawrence Douglas-County health department’s coronavirus line, 785-856-4343.

For updated information on the outbreak, Kansas residents can email or call 866-534-3463 (866-KDHEINF), which is staffed 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

More information can be found through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website or the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health website.

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