By Daniel E. McGonigle
The Caledonia Argus
At their January meeting, the Caledonia Area school board voted to pilot a “flexible learning day.”
The day will be held on Feb. 20 and will make up a snow day.
“Caledonia Area Public Schools is taking the next step into the digital age,” said superintendent Ben Barton. “We believe that learning can and should occur everywhere and at any time. Therefore, we are introducing the concept of a flexible learning day. The idea behind a flexible learning day is that school can be in session without students and staff physically having to be at the school. Our teachers and students will communicate in an online environment using our Schoology digital platform. Teachers will share the lesson and assignments with students and hold virtual office hours to instruct, answer questions, and guide the students. This is possible due to our investment in the 1:1 computing program and the widespread internet access in our area.”
The administrative team views this option for students as relevant to the real world experiences they will face when reaching college and work age.
“We have an obligation to prepare our students for the changing world they live in outside the walls of our schools,” Barton continued. “Students will undoubtedly be exposed to college classes and business situations that will be conducted in an online environment. A flexible learning day will be a great way for us to prepare our students for this.”
“The staff of Caledonia Area Public Schools values student independence, choice and voice, alternative learning experiences, and 21st century skills,” said MS/HS principal Mary Morem. “By implementing a flexible learning day, our students and parents will have the opportunity to explore learning, build relationships, and provide exposure to content.”
School officials are excited to see how students, families and staff respond to the trial day of learning.
“On February 20, we will be having our pilot flexible learning day,” said Morem. “This at home learning day will replace a snow day. We are excited to try this and want every student to be successful. The students may use their devices to get their work done, if any students need any modifications teachers will find out student needs. Teachers will provide learning opportunities through other means for those who don’t have online capabilities before the February 20 date. They will explain these opportunities to students and parents. Teachers will provide pre-teaching and specific guidelines based on grade and subject matter.”
The school has spelled out several guidelines to help parents and students understand the parameters of the trial day.
Here are the guidelines for the flexible learning day:
• Attendance will be taken one week after the flexible learning day. Work can occur and be turned in that day or any day before attendance is taken. Students are counted present once assignments are turned in.
• Teachers will be available via email/Schoology for parent and student questions from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the flexible learning day.
• If students have questions prior or following the flexible learning day they may ask teachers during the regular school classes.
• Learning will be exploratory and creative in nature. The lessons will expand on learning that has already happened in the classroom.
• All flexible learning plans will be available on the district webpage.
Results will be surveyed
“Flexible learning days may be planned or held in the event of an unscheduled school closure due to situations, such as severe weather,” said Barton. “This is the first step in redefining a “snow day”. This will hopefully eliminate the requirement of making up days in June, in the event we go over the allowed number of canceled days.”
The teachers have been trained on the concept and this will give them their first opportunity to apply that to a real world environment.
“Our teachers have received some training on this concept,” Barton said. “They have already begun the process of planning practice sessions with students, developing lessons, and student expectations for a flexible learning day. Teachers with students without devices or internet access at home will have pre-planned activities sent home prior to any flexible learning day. We have determined that assignments from these days will have flexible due dates. In addition, our staff will continue to problem solve around potential issues that we will need to overcome to make flexible learning days successful. A follow-up communication will come from the building principal with further details that will outline flexible learning guidelines for teachers and students.”
The district is down two days due to weather.
“After today, we have two days to make up due to weather closures,” Barton said. “The Board of Education voted at the regular January meeting to make up one day with a flexible learning day on Monday, Feb. 20. The board will need to decide if the second make-up day will also be a flexible learning day or if we will add a regular school day to the calendar. It is our intent to expedite our planning of flexible learning days. The School Board is excited to take this next step in the digital age, however, they made it clear that this is a “pilot” program. We will survey students, parents, and staff after conducting flexible learning days and will determine its effectiveness and if we will adopt this as a permanent practice in our district.”