After viewing lessons and doing assignments on a voluntary basis for the past seven weeks, Denison High School (DHS) students will ramp up their learning to the required level of online learning effective Monday.
The last day of in-building school for Denison Community School students was on Friday, March 13. Two days later, Gov. Kim Reynolds recommended that schools close for four weeks. On April 2 she extended school closures through the end of the month, and then on April 17 announced her intent for schools to be closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. That order became official in the governor’s proclamation issued on Monday.
The change to required online learning at the high school level will not affect students in grades Pre-K through 8. Those students will continue to attend school online on the voluntary continuous basis that was implemented by the district after schools closed in March.
Following is a synopsis of the differences in required and voluntary continuous learning, taken from Iowa Department of Education information.
Required: Students are required to participate, attendance is taken, work is graded and credit is granted. Academic work is equivalent in effort and rigor to typical classroom work.
Voluntary: Student participation is voluntary, work is not graded and credit is not given. However, enrichment opportunities require more than posting lists of activities students and families can do if they want; schools need to engage with learners.
Superintendent Mike Pardun said the required online learning for the high school will provide an opportunity for students to hopefully improve their third quarter grades and to give them the essential skills and assignments for the rest of the year.
The third quarter of the 2019-2020 school year had just started when schools were closed.
For seniors, the rest of the year lasts until May 14. For all other students, grades Pre-K through 11, the last scheduled day of school is May 22.
For required online learning, teachers will have virtual office hours set for students to contact them if they need help with the online lessons.
Pardun is reasonably sure that all the high school students have internet access so they can participate in the required online learning.
Based on a survey conducted earlier, the district learned that 94 percent of the students had internet access. Hotspots have been set up to reach the remaining six percent with internet access.
Pardun said the district has 80 hotpots out right now, adding that this number would represent all students Pre-K through 12, not only high school students.
“We feel we’ve met these needs but if there are students who still don’t have internet access, they should get in contact with us,” the superintendent said.
When the 2020-2021 school year begins, a focus will be essential skills that would have been missed in 2019-2020 because of the pandemic. A concerted effort to fill that gap is already being worked upon by the building administrators and the teaching staff.
School districts will have more time than they normally would to fill those gaps as the school start date of August 23 has been waived for the 2020-2021 year.