Distance Learning To Be Limited To High School Students At WCS

Photo provided.

Distance learning will be offered to only high school students in the 2021-22 school year, the Warsaw Community School Board learned at their meeting.

The news came as Dr. Dani Barkey, assistant superintendent of secondary education, and Dr. David Robertson, assistant superintendent of elementary education, updated how distancing learning went for the 2020-21 school year and the plans for the school corporation for the 2021-22 school year.

The high school and middle school distance learning programs were very similar, but had some differences, Barkey said.

“We had eight teachers – we four teachers at Lakeview and four teachers at Edgewood – that had a period each of distance (education) and they supported their students through a platform called APEX,” Barkey said.

There were also teachers that helped assist students and made accommodations for them.

She said there were “tons of communication” between teachers, students and parents in distance learning.

Barkey also covered how many students were in distance learning throughout the year. She noted Warsaw Community Schools had a lot of students that were interested in distance learning, but by week two of the school year, some of those students found distance learning wasn’t a good fit for them.

“So our enrollment (for distance learning) fluctuated all semester long,” Barkey said.

WCS had some students who had health concerns that went into the program late. Since APEX was mounted to WCS’s core standards, a student was able to come out of regular classes and go into APEX and finish their standards.

“It worked very well, but it was an ever-moving target,” Barkey said.

For high school, the top enrollment for distance learning was 6%, but stayed about 5% for most of the year. For middle schools, about 7% of students were enrolled in distance learning.

Due to feedback from the teachers and students, WCS has decided the distance learning program will not be offered for the middle school students for the 2021-22 school year, Barkey said. However, WCS does believe the high school program should be continued to be offered. They are setting up entry requirements to students to ensure their success in the distance learning program.

High school students will be capped at the amount of credits at 14 for the school year. It is possible to get a full load in, but Barkey said the school corporation doesn’t want to incentivize a program that makes it a faster way to get through credits.

The one exception for distance learning in middle schools will be its pre-algebra class, which is offered during “zero hour,” the period before the start of the normal school day, Barkey said. Because students are bused to Lakeview for the class, some students missed out on things like some other core classes or sports. Due to that, they have had students drop out of the class in the middle of the semester.

This year, WCS offered the option of having students distance learn the class. Barkey said it allowed students to participate in things like sports and then complete their distance learning and catch up on their distance learning for the class in the evening. This year, they didn’t have any students drop out of the class. They will continue that option next year.

Robertson said WCS had nine classroom teachers and two special education teachers lead distance learning classes.

He said at the beginning of the 2020-21 year, 275 students, or 7% of the elementary population, were distance learning. In the spring semester, it dropped to 4.7%.

Because WCS believes in-person is best for students, especially in the foundational classes, elementary students will not be offered a distance option for K-6 classes, Robertson said.

In other business, the Board approved David Burden as the new principal of Washington STEM Academy, starting in the 2021-22 school year. He is replacing Tom Ray, who is retiring after 22 years as the school’s principal.

Burden was at the Board meeting and recognized. He attended with wife, Valerie, and children Ezra, 8; Josiah, 6; and Elliana, 3.

Robertson said Burden was selected from “a very deep selection pool.” Robertson said he was really impressed by how many people wanted to be part of the school district. Robertson said Burden has a lot to offer in experience, as well as his background.