FAIRFIELD, Ala. (WIAT) — School is underway for students at Fairfield City Schools with the first three weeks serving as an evaluation process that could determine how the rest of the semester goes.
Students began virtual classes Monday morning. The district will maintain this approach until at least Labor Day, when they’ll take a look at COVID-19 case numbers and the effectiveness of the virtual approach to make a decision about the future.
“We’re really going to take time to review and analyze the COVID cases – what’s really occurring right after Labor Day – and make another decision to say either we will continue on or we will begin to do another choice, whether we have traditional or virtual learning,” superintendent Regina Thompson said.
The district began preparing for virtual instruction last week with training for teachers. School leaders will distribute laptops to every student this week, and they’ll begin offering virtual learning training for parents next week. Thompson said the process has gone well so far, thanks to the experienced teachers gained with virtual learning in the spring.
“Our teachers did exceptionally well when we really had to shut down abruptly really this early spring,” she said. “And they really jumped in and adapted to that process,” she said.
This week, students will take benchmark assessments as a baseline test. Thompson said leaders always have concerns about a drop-off in learning when students aren’t in the classroom. They fear the “summer slide” could get worse with students being away from in-person instruction longer. So they hope the assessment will help teachers know where their students are as school begins.
“The key is: how do we assess them to move forward in where they are, is teaching them from where they are,” Thompson said. “And that’s going to be the key. And so in our training this week, that has been our main focus: how do you reach the children virtually from where they are.”
Thompson said leaders believe face-to-face learning is the best, but they have some factors to evaluate before they can bring the students back. She said the district’s decision to go virtual was based largely on surveys filled out by faculty and parents. She said many faculty were fearful about returning to class, and a large percentage of parents said they would choose virtual learning anyway. They also saw the rising COVID-19 numbers, consulted with county health officials and ultimately decided the virtual option was best until Labor Day. Then they’ll decide how to proceed based on COVID-19 numbers and the overall effectiveness of the virtual learning process.
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