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First Day of Virtual School

Illustration for article titled First Day of Virtual School
Illustration: Bill Patterson

It will actually be much more structured than it was last spring, when the district went into crisis mode.

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The first three weeks are entirely online for all students in our district. My high schoolers have an A day (periods 1-4) and a B day (periods 5-8). The middle schools where I teach trumpet lessons will be doing something similar with an odd/even schedule that aligns with the dates of the calendar, which makes scheduling students a nightmare. The first forty-five minutes of each period will be synchronous, or with a lecturer, and the second forty-five minutes will be asynchronous, or on your own, in a small group, etc. After the first three weeks, students can continue to learn from home (70% of our district has chosen this option, as have we), or they can return to the building. However, students will be separated into small groups, be required to wear a mask at all times, have to stay in the same room all day (except for lunch), and will do the same online work that the at-home kids are doing. This allows for a quick pivot back to 100% virtual if necessary. Therefore, there is really no incentive to go in-person unless you really need your kids to be out of the house.

After the first three weeks, if conditions allow it, elective classes such as marching band will be allowed to meet before or after school, and the kids who decided to stay home will be allowed to attend. When (and if) things cool down significantly, the third phase will see in-person students allowed to move from their pod to fine arts classes or other electives during the day, and stay-home students can come to school and take part in electives like band or choir. Students who decided to stay home after the first three weeks can change to in-person at the end of the grading period, while students who initially chose in-person can switch back to at-home at any time.

What it’s like figuring out synchronous and asynchronous schedules on an A or B day. This is pretty much what breakfast sounded like at my house.

I give our district, Round Rock ISD, a lot of credit for really thinking this thing through. They’ve come up with a system that is flexible and makes the best of a terrible situation. It remains to be seen, however, how well it actually works in practice. A neighboring district had to cancel the first two days of virtual learning in the high schools because of a technical glitch, while Austin schools delayed their opening because, apparently, that district doesn’t know what the hell they are going to do. And somehow, I’m going to be teaching online private trumpet lessons in the midst of all of this.

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The great experiment has begun.

Illustration for article titled First Day of Virtual School
Photo: The Internet
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