FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Several school districts in the area have begun, or will soon begin, extending the school day to make up for recent snow days. It was one option State Superintendent Glenda Ritz came up with to make up for days missed. Southwest Allen County Schools has proposed using eLearning, another option made available by Ritz.
The program will require students to have additional instruction at home, over computers and the internet. It is scheduled to begin Monday, March 3, as long as it’s approved by Ritz. That decision is expected to come later this week.
“This is the one that we felt we had the most capacity to do and would be the most beneficial to our students,” Dr. Phil Downs, the district’s associate superintendent, said.
So far this winter, SACS officials have canceled school 13 days. The district will use eLearning to make up for five snow days. The district will end the school year on Wednesday, June 4.
School leaders in the district said a recent survey revealed that less than 10 percent of the students do not have access to the internet at home. The district will work with each family to find ways for students to use the internet, by opening school doors earlier in the day and keep them open after school, and by listing nearby free Wi-fi networks.
The district issues laptop computers to students between the sixth and 12th grades.
“I think it’s fabulous,” Chris Broni, the president of the Southwest Allen County Teachers Association, said. “What I’ve really appreciated about this technology is that my students are already digital natives. A lot of times when new technology rolls out, it’s me who is the most uncomfortable person in the classroom so that gives my students an opportunity to teach me and they love that back and forth learning.”
The district has plans to also issue laptops, or tablets, to students between third and fifth grades next year. SACS Superintendent Dr. Steve Yager said Tuesday night that he wants to use eLearning in the future, too, to completely eliminate snow days in the school district.
The amount of work students are expected to make up will differ for each level. High school and middle school students have 30 hours of instruction time needed. Elementary students have just 25 hours. There are different options to how teachers can make up the time, but also some requirements. For example, elementary students must have 7.5 hours of eLearning activities devoted to reading to comply with the 90 minutes of reading required by law. That number is figured for the five days the district is looking to make up through eLearning.
While students are expected to spend extra time in the books, teachers and district leaders want to know the students, and parents, thoughts. Students will be asked to log how much time they spend during eLearning instruction time and what they’ve been asked to do in the lessons.
“If they see a dramatic increase in the amount of work their students are doing at home then let us know,” Downs said. “That’s not our intent. Our intent is to change the way education is happening, and allow us to use time outside of the day to make up the instruction. This isn’t about homework; it’s about changing the way learning occurs.