Mar 26, 2020

Distance Education Models, Communication Systems, Curricular Materials, and Personnel Guidance Now Available

BATON ROUGE, La. -- In response to the statewide closure of school facilities to students to curb the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Louisiana Department of Education today released a suite of resources to support school system leaders with academic and workforce planning during this extraordinary time.

The resources, which are now available on the Department's COVID-19 web page, include various distance education models; samples of daily schedules and communication systems; an inventory of instructional materials, most of which have been deemed top-tier through the Department's nationally recognized review process; and guidance on how to identify and manage staffing needs.

"School facilities may be closed, but the well-being of students, families, teachers and staff remain top priority. Continued learning contributes to student well-being," said Acting State Superintendent Beth Scioneaux. "Many school systems have demonstrated great ingenuity during this time and have begun offering distance learning opportunities. The Department hopes the release of these resources will prove helpful to school system leaders as they continue to make decisions that affect their communities."

Academic and Personnel Resources for School Systems

On March 13, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an emergency proclamation that closed all public school facilities to students through at least April 13. School systems were advised to continue essential functions, such as providing meals and offering distance education, to the extent possible during the closure period.

According to an internal survey, 56 percent of school systems are now offering distance education to their students. Distance education can take many forms. It does not require the use of technology devices or Internet access. 

The resources released today aim to equip all school systems with tools and guidance to help them start or continue to make academic and workforce decisions based on the unique needs of their communities. Key documents include:

  • Continuous Education Guide:Guidance and tools to support school system leaders as they analyze available instructional and technology resources, develop an approach to providing distance learning opportunities, and implement a distance learning plan.
  • Academic Resources Guide: A comprehensive listing of academic resources available for distance learning formats, organized by subject and curriculum provider.
  • Staffing Guide: A guide to support school system leaders as they determine which essential functions must continue during school facility closures and how to create a staffing plan to ensure the continuation of those functions.

Leading School Systems

Leading up to the release of these resources, the Department worked closely with curriculum publishers to assess and ensure access to key materials, collaborated with experts across the nation, and researched school systems with strong plans to provide access to learning. 

DeSoto Parish Schools was among the school systems from which the Department drew inspiration. The school system published online resources to support the retention of grade-level and subject-area learning standards. The optional materials are updated weekly and align to the curriculum used in local classrooms. The school system also made available printable resources.

"These are very uncertain and unsettling times. As a school district, we don't want to add any anxiety or panic to our students and parents," said DeSoto Parish Schools Superintendent Clay Corley. "There's a barrage of social media marketing for e-learning options. We felt the need to narrow the focus and publish a specific set of high-quality resources so families could feel a sense of connection and confidence in their educational options."

Monroe City Schools, another school system that has successfully established distance education opportunities for students, emphasized the importance of connectivity among teachers and students. 

"Monroe City Schools is providing digital links to instructional resources and paper packets, but even more, we are encouraging teachers to connect with students via Zoom, Google Classroom, and Remind," said Serena White, the school system's director of curriculum and instruction. "Connectivity with our students and families is vital. We are engaging them in academic activities, but it is so much more. When we make efforts to connect with them, we are expressing our care for them as individuals."

White added, "In every email with teachers, I have stated, 'They are still your students, and you are still their teacher.'"

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