BY VERSHAL HOGAN
The Hamburg School District made a decision last week to change how its on-site students below the high school level handle learning with technology.
In a message that was sent out Wednesday, April 14, the school district told parents that students in grades Kindergarten through eighth grade were to turn in their school assigned Chromebooks, as well as any accessories such as chargers and mice.
“Our focus…will continue to be on providing our students, on-site and remote, with the best possible education,” the message said. “Our focus for the next six weeks will be to fill any gaps our students have from the past year and push them to grow.”
The school district will still maintain its remote Monday learning schedule, but instead of taking the computers home students will be given assignments on Friday. The schools will remain open for on-site learning on Mondays, but those who choose to participate in Remote Monday learning will be required to complete the assignments they receive each Friday.
The district’s remote students will continue their learning plans as previously established.
Superintendent of Schools, Tracy Streeter said the decision was not a hasty one, and that the school district administration has been considering and discussing how it will finish the school year since Christmas.
“It is something we have been thinking about,” she said. “We have had some safety issues concerning students and we are addressing that on our end.”
In the classroom, the students will be using the Chromebooks as they take state assessment tests.
“We are going to be cleaning and checking (the computers), students are going to be using them in class,” Streeter said. “We are looking at options we can put in place that make it safer for them when an adult is not around.
“We need parents to help with this by monitoring what students are doing on devices. It takes all of us to keep our children safe.”
The district is not taking away computer-based learning completely, Streeter said, because that would do a disservice to students in a world where technology is increasingly integrated into everyday life.
“Taking it away completely would set our kids up for failure, but there has got to be some balance,” she said. “We are trying to find that balance.”
In other HSD news:
+The school board has approved the End of Year COVID-19 plan, which is available for public review and comment at bit.ly/hsd21-rlp-publiccomments.
The plan will leave the COVID-19 mask mandate in place until the end of the school year, and as the district starts summer school — based on local COVID case counts — wearing masks may become optional for summer school students.
If the numbers continue to stay within the acceptable range, wearing masks will remain optional at the beginning of the school year in August.
In addition to the public’s comments, the plan will also require approval from the state education department.
When he spoke with the HSD board at this month’s school board meeting, Chris Hammond — who has been in charge of the district’s COVID-19 tracking — said April 11 was the first time since July that the district had zero reported cases of the virus associated with its students or personnel.
+The school board tentatively approved a digital learning plan for the 2021-2022 school year. The plan sets the digital learning cap at 50 students, and will require them to maintain a minimum of a C average. Students with Family In Need of Services (FINS) petitions will not be eligible for the digital learning option.
Only students in grades seven through 12 will be eligible for the digital option.
The district will use the Virtual Arkansas platform as its digital learning provider. The plan, which still has to be approved by the state education department, also includes hiring a licensed liaison to work with students and families who are part of the digital learning program.