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Teacher, students practice online learning with 'virtual learning day'

Winfield-Mt. Union 5th grader Nolan Putnam goes online with his class and teacher while his mom, second-grade teacher Cheryl Putnam is online with her class. (Contributed photo)
Winfield-Mt. Union 5th grader Nolan Putnam goes online with his class and teacher while his mom, second-grade teacher Cheryl Putnam is online with her class. (Contributed photo)
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WINFIELD — Following a virtual learning day on Monday, teachers and students in the Winfield-Mt. Union and Columbus Community School Districts are better prepared for a potential switch to a hybrid or remote learning model.

The districts decided to do the trial-run day, which had students receiving instruction from home, to identify connectivity and accessibility needs of students and families in case a switch ever needs to occur.

Jeff Maeder, who serves as superintendent at both districts, said the districts have a “much better grasp” on which students do not have access to the internet or face connectivity issues.

“It was a valuable, worthwhile experience for us. If you ask any teacher, they will tell you that,” Maeder said.

Maeder added the day was “not perfect,” but the districts never expected it to be perfect.

“We are certainly just further down the road of being prepared” he said.

The superintendent added that students were prepared ahead of time to understand what the virtual learning day would entail, which made the day go smoother.

“We did a lot of things to get kids ready — telling them when they need to be signed in when the class starts, saying, ‘Make sure you wake up. We will be taking attendance,’ — things like that,” he said.

Because the Columbus Community district still is working on providing all elementary students devices, Maeder said there was more instruction through send-home packets than at Winfield-Mt. Union, which only identified six families with no access to the internet.

Maeder said the districts are now looking into strategically ordering and placing hot spots in locations throughout the communities that would be accessible to students. The superintendent added teachers have become more aware of other obstacles students may face including older students who may be responsible for supervising or providing support to younger siblings.

“It’s a factor we need to be aware of and asking ourselves, ‘How does that affect our expectations of what we need to be asking of students?’” Maeder said.

The superintendent added the districts will be collecting data from parent surveys as well to get additional feedback.

“We want parent involvement there as much as we can,” he said.

Maeder thanked parents for their cooperation during the virtual learning day and reiterated that neither district is interested or plans to go to a hybrid or virtual learning model.

“It’s not something we’re excited to do. We think that in-person is the best way for our kids to be educated, and we have no plans to do [switch learning models],” he said.