By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
All students enrolled in Yukon Public Schools are being provided electronic devices as the district prepares to begin online and virtual learning next week.
The technology was deployed this week across the Yukon school district.
Students in second through 12th grades received Chromebooks and students in pre-kindergarten through first grade received Chrome tablets.
These devices – along with an online learning management system – will be used to implement the YPS Continuous Learning Plan (CLP) and support “at-home” learning.
Because of COVID-19 safety concerns, the YPS 2020-21 school year will begin with at-home “distance” learning.
YPS officials will need to see a downward trend on the state’s COVID alert map and global pandemic map before students return to school buildings, according to YPS Superintendent Dr. Jason Simeroth.
YPS officials also will see if there are any reports of school personnel or students being exposed to or testing positive for the virus.
“If we get one (case), that can close down a school, it can close down a site, it can close down a classroom, it can close down the district,” Dr. Simeroth said in a video message to YPS patrons.
Online classes start next Monday, Aug. 24 and the situation will be reevaluated at the October YPS Board of Education meeting to determine if it’s safe for students to return to classrooms.
Students can attend live sessions and view recordings of the CLP classes, which can be downloaded to their Chromebooks or the cloud.
YPS spent $947,156 to procure an additional 2,759 Chromebooks – including Chrome management licensing and device – to supplement the district’s existing device inventory.
To also help ensure all students can learn online, YPS purchased Wi-Fi devices called “bus spots” to enable internet access for students who live in places with connectivity issues.
YPS enrollment is 8,738 students in pre-K through 12th grade. The school district has 1,279 employees.
Yukon’s school superintendent knows having students learn from home to start this school year is challenging for parents, especially those who work.
“I realize that people will have to make sacrifices, and find babysitters and get grandparents to help,” Dr. Simeroth said. “In the long run, we believe that not having kids in classrooms right now will help to reduce the spread and help to keep people safe.”
The CLP classes that start next Monday will be much better than the online program used last spring “in a crisis situation” when schools closed suddenly, he emphasized.
Although online learning obviously won’t be the same as being in the classroom, YPS teachers starting next week will be able to work directly with students on the academics using the local school district’s curriculum and timeline.
Meanwhile, the semester-long Yukon Virtual School starts next Wednesday, Aug. 26.
Students enrolled in Yukon Virtual School will be provided curriculum through Edgenuity (sixth through 12th grades) and Florida Virtual (kindergarten through fifth grade). Courses are self-paced and allow for a flexible schedule.
Yukon students won’t be back inside YPS classrooms until their parents are comfortable and school officials are sure they’ll be safe.
“Patience, grace and mercy,” Dr. Simeroth said in his video message. “That will help to get us through.”