Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.

Schools to make move to distance learning

High school seniors should graduate on time, officials say
Saturday, April 4, 2020
Article Image Alt Text

With school closure now officially extended to April 30 based on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ prolonged coronavirus stay-at-home order, Lincoln Parish Schools are now in the process of moving to distance learning technology so that classes may continue in some form later this week.

The district had been providing optional online resources for students since COVID-19 forced schools to close on March 16. But in light of the extended closure time, the state Department of Education has now given parishes the power to assign grades for online coursework so students can get credit for spring classes.

Chief Academic Officer Lisa Bastion said teachers will use file-sharing and video conferencing tools like Google Classroom and Zoom to either conduct face-to-face sessions with students, or in other cases to record instructional videos for students to access on demand.

“Our hope is that by Wednesday, all the core courses should have online learning going on, and for those who do not have the availability for online, we will have hard copies for them,” Bastion said.

“It’s going to be on a situation-by-situation basis as to how we reach each child.”

The Department of Education on Thursday sent school districts guidance on how to handle seniors who were slated to graduate this school year. The bottom line: if a student earns the required class credits, all other barriers to graduation, such as standardized tests and certifications, have been waived.

“Continue on with your schoolwork, and there’s no reason why you should not be able to graduate,” Bastion said.

Superintendent of Schools Mike Milstead said that in the wake of the governor’s extended stay-at-home order, the district feels “an even stronger obligation” to ensure students will still be educated while the school doors are closed.

“If you’re out for Christmas for a couple weeks, for example, you can come back, review a day or two and move on,” he said. “But now you’re talking about missing four additional weeks of instruction, and obviously we can’t let that time go to waste for our kids.”

Among the many things the state left up to individual school districts to figure out in its Thursday guidance was graduation ceremonies. Districts have the option to hold virtual ceremonies online or postpone them until after virus mitigation measures are lifted.

While a final ruling on graduation ceremonies for Lincoln Parish’s three public high schools has not yet been made, Bastion said the district is considering postponing them until some time in the summer after public gatherings are once again permissible.

However, diplomas will be printed and sent to districts from the state on time this spring.

Districts also now have leeway from the state to decide the method for assigning grades for their online classes on a case-bycase basis, whether that be letter grades or pass/fail.

“That’s really big for us and all school districts,” Milstead said.

“Having that flexibility means we can determine if a student is proficient in a certain area, and whether or not they passed an end-of-course or LEAP 2025 test, we can go ahead and promote them in that particular class, and they’ll be able to graduate with that additional credit.”

Other guidance from the state includes three options for students who are taking dual enrollment courses.

They can continue with online instruction to get dual credit, get their course extended until Aug. 31, or do an “administrative withdrawal” to drop out of the course without anything going on their college record.

Meanwhile, requirements for TOPS remain the same.

While the ACT is no longer required to graduate this year, a state test will be offered on June 2 for those who need an ACT score for scholarships.

Full guidelines for graduating seniors in Q-and-A format can be found on the Department of Education’s website.

As schools prepare to make the move to distance learning, Milstead said families, teachers and administrators must all “keep the faith.”

“We’re all in this together,” he said. “It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us. But this is going to end, and at some point we’re going to get back to a concept of normalcy.... This too is something that we will look back on at some point and say we’re better off educationally on the other side.”

School meal pickups to resume

The Lincoln Parish School District will resume its meal pickup service beginning Monday. All Lincoln Parish students qualify for breakfast and lunch handed out from 9:30-11 a.m. Monday through Friday at Ruston Elementary, Simsboro, Dubach, Choudrant High, I.A. Lewis, Cypress Springs, Hillcrest and Glenview schools.

Lincoln Preparatory update

As Gov. Edwards’ stay-at-home order extends to April 30, the doors of Lincoln Preparatory School will remain closed as well. But online instruction, which began for the Panthers the same week schools closed, will continue. Executive Director Gordan Ford said Friday that Lincoln Prep designed its distance learning with the anticipation that it would be used for the rest of the school year if schools remain closed, so the extended closure will not disrupt class plans.

The week of April 6-10 is Lincoln Prep’s spring break, but Ford said the school’s meal distribution efforts will continue each day except April 10. After that, meals will continue to be available from 10 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday through the end of the summer, and Ford said that if schools are allowed to reopen, students will instead be able to come to the cafeteria for regular summer feeding.