CCS offers two pathways for upcoming academic year

BY HANNAH MCCLELLAN, News + Record Staff
Posted 8/7/20

Chatham County Schools has shared a resource with families to help them understand the different academic pathways CCS will offer for the upcoming 2020 to 2021 school year.

The Google document, …

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CCS offers two pathways for upcoming academic year

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Chatham County Schools has shared a resource with families to help them understand the different academic pathways CCS will offer for the upcoming 2020 to 2021 school year.

The Google document, titled “CCS Academic Instruction Pathways for 2020-2021,” was introduced last Thursday and is broken into two sections: the 100% CCS Virtual Academy option (CCSVA) which requires a semester-long commitment, and the standard pathway, broken into Plans A, B and C.

CCS will begin the school year on Aug. 17 under the at-home learning option “Plan C” and re-evaluate after four weeks, the board of dducation decided at its July 16 meeting. This decision followed Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcment two days earlier that public schools would open under the hybrid option “Plan B,” with the option for individual districts to opt for Plan C. The state defines Plan A — not currently on the table for CCS or North Carolina schools — as “returning to school buildings for in-person instruction with minimal social distancing and health and safety protocols,” the resource says.

The district’s remote learning plan is up to date, CCS Public Relations Coordinator John McCann told the News + Record, but CCS is working to develop additional expectation sheets for students and parents prior to first day of classes. The remote learning plan was also approved at the July 16 BOE meeting.

Differences between Plan B and C

The school board will re-evaluate in the coming weeks if moving to Plan B on the four-week mark, Sept. 11, is possible or if the district will coninue under Plan C. The board’s next regular session meeting on Aug. 10 is the only regular meeting currently scheduled prior to that four-week mark.

Between the Plan B and C pathways identified by the district, the biggest differences relate to student schedules, live/direct instruction and Exceptional Children programming. The district included the link to a separate resource breaking down EC instruction under each plan. In the outlined general CCS information, the process for determining decision timelines, class sizes and curriculum does not vary between the two plans.

During fully remote learning days, under Plan C, students will receive daily direct instruction as follows:

• K-2 students will receive instruction in reading and math (with science and social studies integrated into those lessons) while students in 3rd through 5th grades will receive instruction in science, reading and math.

• 6th through 8th graders will have “three direct instruction sessions each week averaging 20-30 minutes each,” with 9th through 12th graders under the same requirement but for 30 minutes. Total class sessions for high schoolers will vary depending on the course level, the resource said.

The document said students will receive five days of fully remote instruction under Plan C, while students would transition between two to three days of remote instruction with two to three days of in-person instruction in alternating weeks, under Plan B.

“Administrators at each school will develop specific schedules that maximize staffing and student resources,” the pathways resource said.

Internet access

On Friday, the district also published a podcast regarding internet access and hotspots with Emma Braaten, CCS executive director of digital teaching and learning. During the podcast, McCann said the four weeks of at-home instruction — also referred to as remote learning — will be greatly assisted by access to the internet.

“Of course, we realized that for some in our Chatham County Schools community, Internet access away from our campuses is very difficult to come by if they can get it at all,” McCann said. “But listen to me. Do not for one second think that we as a school system are going to let that stop any of our young people from getting their schoolwork. Whatever we have to do, within our power and within reason, to provide education — we are going to get creative and do it.”

Braaten then addressed students for whom accessing the internet is possible, but extra help is needed to access it.

“We know that connectivity in Chatham County is a real need of across the district...and it’s been critical as we’ve moved into our at-home learning to try and figure out what are some solutions for that,” Braaten said.

In January 2020, Braaten said CCS joined the 1Million Project, a nationwide endeavor launched by Sprint in 2017 to provide students with hotspots, wireless access points that can connect user to the Internet. Originally intended for high school students, Braaten said the project recently expanded its offerings to younger grades because of the impact of the coronavirus. As the district works to distribute those hotspots in the coming weeks, she said it would also explore using funding from the state to purchase additional devices. CCS is also in the early stages of investigating the possibilty of bus hotspots for rides to school, looking at various provider options.

There is no charge for students to receive or use a hotspot, Braaten said.
“Hotspots are just a Band-Aid — it’s just a quick fix for us right now. It’s not actually going to be a long term solution for us,” she said, adding that investment by the government to ensure internet access is a part of the utility for every individual must happen.

While the hotspots are helpful for many students, she said the devices are rendered completely useless for students who live in areas without cell service.

“It’s really an uphill climb right now,” Braaten said. “But we’re trying to put our heads together, put the funding out there. So we’ll be able to provide some type of solution for some of our students, and keep working to make up the difference in other places.”

To access the district’s resource on instruction pathways, go to: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gd_cyk-ORUUokN_hj2F8xAtMc5S1pZCIcG2yoHi8rpk/edit?fbclid=IwAR3K2Wm6I5SMCZpDSwqmaWetuVNYNvbNp8a1DPGxT5EZfF7f8VrHmTn1mNA

Reporter Hannah McClellan can be reached at hannah@chathamnr.com.

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