Noting time of crisis, Lawrence superintendent says remote learning will start slow

photo by: Rochelle Valverde

The Lawrence school board meets at district offices on March 23, 2020.

As the Lawrence school district prepares to launch remote learning next week, Superintendent Anthony Lewis said he understood parents are handling a lot right now and the transition into learning from home would be gradual.

At the Lawrence school board’s meeting Monday, Lewis said he realized that, due to the coronavirus outbreak, some parents are working from home on top of having their kids there all day. Lewis said the country is in crisis and that both parents and students are stressed. He emphasized there is no “academic emergency” and that online learning would start slow.

“Yes, our e-learning will begin on Monday, but families can rest assured they won’t be bombarded with academics,” Lewis said. “It’s about reconnecting and checking in on our scholars and our families.”

Lewis said that applied to teachers as well, many of whom are also parents. He added that the district would go slow while also making sure that students receive academic benefit.

The development of the district’s plan for remote learning is ongoing. Lewis said that teachers have begun holding virtual meetings with school principals to further develop the district’s remote learning plan. He said the plan will go to the school board for consideration on April 2, before going to the Kansas State Department of Education for ultimate approval. Learning from home, though, will begin March 30.

Lewis said the school district’s remote learning format would follow guidance from the KSDE, which has provided recommendations regarding how much remote learning each grade level should have. A task force of educators from across the state created the guidelines, which were released Thursday.

The guidelines suggest students should have a limited amount of at-home learning time according to their grade level, as the Journal-World previously reported. For prekindergarten students, the maximum is 30 minutes, 45 minutes for students in kindergarten and first grade, 60 minutes for students in second and third grades, 90 minutes for students in fourth and fifth grades, and 30 minutes per teacher with a maximum of three hours total for students in sixth grade and up.

Additionally, the guidelines suggest that teachers have weekly assignments, projects, and video check-ins to assess their students’ learning. The full 76-page document is posted on the KSDE website,

Following the meeting, Lewis told the Journal-World that in the first week of remote learning, the focus would be on getting familiar with the process, online platforms and reconnecting students and teachers. Once the district’s plan is in place, he said there would be flexibility, which would be key for parents who may have work duties, be dealing with a layoff from work, or have multiple kids at home. He said the philosophy would be about providing options for both parents and students and that live instruction from teachers will be recorded so students can access it at any time.

As far as format goes, Lewis said that students would use platforms already in use in Lawrence schools, such as Seesaw and Google Classroom. He said more information and logistics regarding remote learning would be sent to parents at the end of this week.

In other business, the school board voted unanimously to approve a temporary decrease in the number of credit hours needed to graduate high school to 21 credits. The school district currently requires high school students to earn 23 credits to graduate, which is above the state’s minimum requirement of 21 credits. The reduction comes from decreasing the amount of elective courses students are required to take, and is meant to assist seniors who must now finish their high school education online due to the coronavirus outbreak. The requirements for core courses — English language arts, math, science, social studies, physical education and fine arts — remain the same. The change will expire at the end of this school year. Three school board members remotely attended the meeting, which was broadcast online, and the meeting was closed to public in order to follow social distancing rules.

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