How PV plans to manage the remainder of the school year

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Carly Lundry

Although online learning is not required by PV, using sources such as Khan Academy may be useful.

By Carly Lundry and Grace Halupnik

As public schools across the country temporarily close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Pleasant Valley is not attempting a transition to online education as administration configures a new plan for the remainder of the semester.

PV announced on March 16 that schools would remain closed after spring break until April 13. This decision was preceded by Governor Kim Reynolds’ statement recommending all public schools close for four weeks to slow the spread of the virus. 

College campuses across the nation have closed in-person teaching to be replaced with online schooling through various programs such as Zoom Video Communications and Google Hangouts. However, public high schools are not able to make this transition.

The Iowa Department of Education prohibits online education as a requirement or for grading purposes. These rules were put in place to give every student an equal opportunity for an education. In situations where students live in poverty, have disabilities or have language barriers, this option is not viable. 

Superintendent Brian Strusz was not able to allow Pleasant Valley students an online education during this break due to these guidelines. “The only way for us to allow online learning to count is if the Iowa Legislators were to make a change in Iowa Code,” he said.

Principal Darren Erickson agreed that moving courses online at this time is not a good option. “We have to consider the equity for all students,” said Erickson. “Additionally we have to make sure that every student would be able to access these courses. So every student would have to be guaranteed the technology and access to the Internet in order to move forward with this.”

Erickson also commented that some courses would be easy to move online while others would not, further complicating the process. The administration is still in the planning stages of how to move forward.

Since classes will not be moved online during the break from school, the most pressing issue administration is confronting is how to modify classes and coursework once school is back in session. While the PV staff is not physically in school right now, they are working currently to modify their curriculums.

“We have asked [teachers] to take a close look at the essential learning standards and activities needed to get what students need over the time we have allotted,” said Erickson. “We are encouraging staff to use Google docs, FaceTime, Google Hangouts and other social media so they can work collaboratively while still keeping the social distancing recommendations in place.”

Though 14 days of school will be missed during the break, Reynolds has waived the time due to the nature of the circumstances so schools are not required to make it up. However, next week the PV administrative team will be meeting to discuss options for modifying the schedule in order to make up as much time as possible without disrupting students’ plans. 

Many students, teachers and parents alike are fearful of what missing weeks of school will mean for the future. However, Erickson assured that students’ health is of the utmost priority. “I recommend all students spend this time looking at resources they may have available, spending some time reading, and looking out for their physical and mental well-being too,” he said. “The academic time is very important, but to be perfectly honest I am much more worried for our students’ physical and mental well-being.”

PV administration has promised to support students’ academics to the best of their ability despite the deducted time. As of now they are acting under the assumption of returning to school on April 13, meaning their main considerations are modifications to service learning due to students not being able to get volunteer hours and adjustments to curriculums.

However, if more time is forced to be missed, administration would have to look at many more issues such as potential credit recovery opportunities. “[If the time off becomes longer] we would also start to look at ways to support learning enrichment opportunities due to the missed time,” said Erickson. “We would be looking at what states that have already canceled school for the year are doing regarding educational opportunities for students.”

Though at this time there are still many unanswered questions surrounding the remainder of the school year, PV administration is working around the clock during the break in order to find solutions and continue pursuing excellence despite challenges.

This story was originally published on Spartan Shield on March 22, 2020.