Blended instructional model unveiled for county students

By NICOLE SMITH
Posted 4/3/20

A plan has been finalized to meet the educational needs of all children in Walker County Schools during this unprecedented time in history where students can’t receive classroom instruction.

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Blended instructional model unveiled for county students

Posted

A plan has been finalized to meet the educational needs of all children in Walker County Schools during this unprecedented time in history where students can’t receive classroom instruction.

Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood shared the school system’s plan with the Daily Mountain Eagle, which was required to be submitted to the Alabama State Department of Education on Friday.

All schools will start implementing the plan on Monday, April 6.

On March 26, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey announced that students would not return to schools this year due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and school systems were directed to develop plans best suited for individual districts.   

Due to lack of Internet connectivity in much of Walker County, the Walker County Board of Education has had to work diligently to make sure students at 16 schools and the Walker County Center of Technology continue to receive educational materials.

Hagood said the school system is going to use a blended instructional model, which will consist of online teachings for students with digital access and instructional packets for all other children.   

“Our schools have certain instructional programs they use throughout the year to provide enrichment or remedial opportunities. These programs cover all the Alabama Standards,” Hagood said. “Therefore, our students choosing the online option will be using these familiar programs as the teachers upload the lessons and assignments. Many of our teachers will also use the Google Suite to deliver instruction. For example, Google Docs to send documents, or Google Meet to have face-to-face time via technology.”

Students utilizing instructional packets will pick those up at their respective schools, and administrators have been reaching out to parents with specific information.  

Plans already in place to serve Hispanic students and those with special needs will continue. 

“We communicate with the parents, strive to make everything equitable, and strive to follow the individualized education plans (IEPs), individualized language plans (ILPs), and 504 plans (i.e. students needing specific accommodations),” Hagood said.

There will also be a special effort to help students who may have been struggling academically prior to school closures.

“Our focus is on the most critical standards that a student needs to know before moving on to the next grade level, of course. We have trimmed the fat, so to speak,” Hagood said. “It really is an opportunity to be focused, to hone in, and provide some opportunities for grade recovery or credit recovery in order to gain proficiency with those critical standards”

Career tech students will not be able to complete hands-on instruction during this time, but they will receive materials to study in preparation for earning credentials.

“The career technical instruction is provided in the same fashion as general education during our closure. They will focus on the most critical standards in their courses,” Hagood said. “I’m sure they will also offer credential assessment reviews, and once this is all behind us then students can return to complete his or her respective credential assessment. If one is available online then they can collaborate with their instructor to take it when they are ready.”

As for seniors, those who were in good standing at the conclusion of the third nine-week period are considered graduates. This declaration was made in many school systems across the state, after direction from Mackey. 

Hagood said high schools in Walker County still plan to conduct graduation ceremonies for seniors, but commencement will have to be held later than originally scheduled. Students and seniors will also be recognized for their accomplishments.

“Many of our schools are already doing this via social media. We will continue to do this on our system web page and to recognize at board meetings, just like always,” Hagood said. “I hope that we can do a special senior night or something like most of our schools do, in addition to graduation, once we return to a sense of normalcy.”

Hagood said he understands what has transpired over the past few weeks has been incredibly difficult for seniors who have missed prom and other experiences unique to senior year.  

“This too shall pass. This, like many other things in life, are simply not in our control,” Hagood said. “But the one thing you do get to control is how you respond to it. The sun will rise tomorrow, and it is a new day and new opportunity. What you do with it is totally up to you. This is but one of many adversities that you will encounter on life’s journey. There will be peaks and valleys, celebrations, and disappointments.”  

Even though students will not be returning to school this academic year, teachers are continuing to receive pay. Many briefly returned to schools over the past week, all while practicing social distancing, to get some classroom materials.

Prior to teachers re-entering buildings, all facilities were fogged and sanitized.

During this time, teachers are keeping in close communication with students and parents over the phone and digitally.  

All support personnel at schools, such as custodians and lunchroom workers, are continuing to be paid as well and are available to schools on an as needed basis, according to Hagood. 

Some principals took to Facebook this week to express gratitude to the faculty and staff at their schools and to reassure students during this time of uncertainty in our country and here at home.

“I want to thank our teachers for all that they are doing,” Dora High School Principal Paige Abner said. “These are definitely unprecedented times and we are all doing our best as we work together. Above all else, the safety of our students and teachers is imperative.”

Carbon Hill High School Principal Kyle Dutton said, “We will be checking in with you and gathering some information from you as we move forward with the academic year. Continue to be patient and please stay safe and healthy.”     

“On a personal note, I sure miss my students and faculty,” Curry High School Principal Eric Woodley said. “I took for granted the joy seeing all of you each day brought me. I also want to reassure our senior class of 2020 that they will have a proper prom and graduation ceremony when appropriate, after June 5.”