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Dowagiac Union Schools families asked to choose back-to-school option

DOWAGIAC — Dowagiac Union Schools families have until Monday, Aug. 24, to choose either a distance learning/in-person option back-to-school option or cyber/virtual learning option for their students when classes begin on Sept. 8.

In a letter to the district, Dowagiac Union Schools Superintendent Jonathan Whan asked families to register their students for the coming school year and to choose a plan that best suits their student’s needs. Registration can be done on the district’s website under the “enrollment” tab on the drop-down menu.

“For Dowagiac Union Schools to be fully prepared to meet our families’ wishes, every student must be registered for the coming school year,” Whan wrote. “This is critical as we need accurate enrollment information for program development, staffing, and contact information as communication is important in the digital world in which we now live.”

According to Whan, the information is needed for the district’s “1 to 1 technology program,” which includes providing every student in the district with a Chromebook computer. While families are not required to provide their own devices, there will be a small “insurance fee” to protect families against the cost of damage to the Chromebooks while they are in possession and being used by students.

“This program is essential for our learning paths as students will need access to learning devices,” wrote Whan. “When the registration process was originally developed, we had no idea we would be dealing with the COVID-19 situation. We thank you for your cooperation. The sooner you register and select your child(ren) learning path, the sooner we can adjust assignments of students to a learning path and develop our distribution plan to provide all students with access to the district-provided Chromebooks.”

The distance learning portion of the distance learning/In-person learning instruction path is focused on trying to resemble in-person instruction as much as possible. Staff will be on-site at the school building to provide them with access to teaching materials, technology, and support systems as well as a location for the small group instruction when appropriate to enhance the productivity of learning and instruction.

Whan noted that the in-person instruction portion of this path does not need much explanation as it will be “normal” except for the requirements set by the state for safety, hygiene and cleaning.

“Your children will be taught by the DUS teachers they would have during in-person instruction and provided added assistance by DUS support staff,” Whan wrote. “There will be live interaction between staff and students, and of course, it will not be exactly the same, but there will be windows of time for instruction and interaction between students and staff.”

The district will be using the Learning Management System Schoology to support the students and staff using this path.

“We have selected Schoology to provide course management, mobile learning, and support for system-wide communication,” Whan said. “Schoology will enable our students, parents, and teachers to engage with learning materials and their school community from the classroom and beyond.”

The cyber/virtual learning plan requires a commitment for the full fall semester. Students can elect this option for second semester, but that decision will not be made until at least November.

“The commitment is needed as there is an additional financial cost to the district for the virtual/cyber learning,” Whan said.

The students choosing this path will have access to a Chromebook just like the students in the distance learning/in-person instructional model. The district will be working with the EdOptions Academy for all students who feel it meets their needs. The letter states that students in kindergarten to eighth grade will be assigned the four core areas: language arts, mathematics, science and social studies, as well as two electives. Students in grades ninth to 12th would focus on the four core areas as well as elective or other graduation requirements. Students would not have access to a seventh class in this path, which is important for the students trying to earn enough credits to graduate, Whan said.

Instruction is provided by a teacher working for the academy. There will be a DUS staff member who will fill the role of ‘mentor/coach’ to each student for weekly check-ins and progress monitor as the student moves through their classes.

“These programs are self-paced and focus on students successfully completing the course requirements by the end of the semester,” wrote Whan.

According to Whan, the district will be sharing more information regarding these topics as the first day of school approaches, with the goal of providing relevant information every few days.

 

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