Online Learning Gets Started Officially This Week, Chromebooks Mostly Delivered

After delivering more than 4,100 ChromeBooks to students in a drive-thru operation last week, the official distance learning initiative for Everett Public Schools started on Monday.

While there are slightly more than 600 ChromeBooks that need to be hand delivered to homes, but Supt. Priya Tahiliani said they estimate 54 percent of the district had computer access now, and they believe a good percentage of those remaining already have a home computer they can use.

“The transition to distance learning has been consistent across the board,” she said. “Families that have already been doing work online have wondered why one child has a lot of work posted and the other doesn’t have very much. Families didn’t know what the expectation was. This gives every school the ability to work everything out consistently across the board so families will know what to expect.”

She said they are already getting positive feedback, and the work is being posted more consistently. The goals she said were to have coherent, cohesive and consistent work for kids across each school. The distance learning plan give students the ability to work on their individual grade level classroom, by their school or using the district’s umbrella assignments.

Teachers have been worried, however, that the start has shown spotty participation. Work is serious, but it is enrichment, and many families are having trouble adjusting to having to work inside or outside the home while students are home expected to be learning at the same time.

“We have heard from teachers that participation is spotty,” she said. “Some days have huge participation and other day less. I even see this at my own home in my household. We’re all working at home, and some are still going to work. Everyone is on their devices, and parents are in meetings…We’re trying to remember this is a difficult and challenging time for everyone and for the teachers not to get discouraged. If there are days of great participation, families know it’s there and that’s great.”

The goal for each teacher is to post one activity every day, Monday through Friday, for their students in Google classroom.

She said they fully intend to pick up hand deliveries of the remaining 662 ChromeBooks on Tuesday, April 21.

Meal Distiribution To Likley Change

School meal distributions were postponed last week due to more restrictive in-person restrictions, but there is a good chance they will resume on Tuesday, April 21.

If so, Tahiliani said they would likely change some things up, including the numbers of days they distribute meals. That could change to twice a week with multiple meals passed out during longer hours.

“We’re just trying to figure out what the need is now,” she said. “It may be different than it was before.”

¥ MCAS Testing Cancelled

The state legislature voted late last week to waive the MCAS testing requirement at all schools in the state. The legislation also allowed the state to modify or waive the MCAS requirements related to high school graduation.

The move was applauded by Tahiliani, who said she cannot recall a time when the MCAS test had to be cancelled.

“However, if there ever was a time that it should be canceled, that time is most definitely now,” she said. “Right now, our collective priorities as a state and a country supersede standardized testing, and I am happy that our legislators and leaders agree.  As educators, we are most concerned about keeping our students engaged in learning and ensuring their social, emotional and physical well-being.”

She also said the schools will need to have drastic interventions when school returns to help students catch up on the things they’ve missed – with most collectively falling behind one year. That, she said, will impact communities like Everett differently than others. She said it is hoped that MCAS testing will take that into consideration next year when tests are given again.

“I just hope the state and test-makers are forethinking and make adjustments to next year’s test or to our overall accountability system, as the ramifications of this will impact communities differently and that needs to be taken into consideration,” she said.

¥AP Classes Still Conducting Exams

Students enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes are certainly feeling the heat this month as they have to continue to prepare for the onerous AP exams that are given in May.

That will be a challenge, Tahiliani said, without traditional instruction.

However, the College Board – which conducts AP programs – said the testing for this year will only go up to what was learned before March 13. The test will be 45 minutes and will be online.

However, students will have to prepare despite not having traditional classes for two months.

“At the end of the day, it’s still a lot of stress for our seniors and juniors who want to get themselves prepared, get the credit and pass,” she said.

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