Saturday, June 6, 2020

East Lansing parents react to new remote learning plans

May 19, 2020
<p>East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education President Erin Graham during the Board of Education meeting Oct. 14, 2019.</p>

East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education President Erin Graham during the Board of Education meeting Oct. 14, 2019.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order suspending K-12 in-classroom education for the remainder of the school year, East Lansing Public Schools families were presented with a response plan providing students with continued learning. 

Continuity of Learning, or COL, plans were put into effect April 20 in an effort to reengage students. Since then, parents receive learning menus at the beginning of each week, which include study materials such as worksheets, guidelines and links to interactive videos for different subjects. 

"I admire what the district has done in a very short period of time, and I know they've been working hard on it,” Ann Siegle said. “I'm very satisfied with the implementation plans from the perspective that we asked our teachers, in a matter of a few short weeks, to completely change the way they deliver public education, and I think they deserve a medal." 

According to Siegle, districts have collaborated on the learning menus and sessions include interactive videos that are hosted by teachers across the districts. Siegle said her son, who attends Marble Elementary School, feels engaged.

"I think what the kids are really missing is the opportunity to interact with the other students in the learning process or to do activities,” Siegle said. 

Siegle said it is challenging for her daughter, an orchestra student at McDonald Middle School, to not be able to practice with her classmates.

"By the simple nature that you're not in the room with other musicians, it doesn't have the same ... level of impact,” Siegle said. “It's not the same experience as being in a classroom."

Elementary school parent Patricia Jaimes said a survey was conducted with East Lansing Public Schools families before the implementation plans were finalized. The survey asked questions regarding the need for technological equipment such as laptops or tablets as well as the need for internet access.

“I believe that teachers are trying their best,” Jaimes said. “But because my daughter is in special education, most special education students across the country are supposed to be receiving individualized learning ... which is very difficult to do in a remote learning environment."

Jaimes said she's been homeschooling her daughter since in-person education was suspended in March. Even after the COL plan was introduced, they have continued with the homeschooling for the most part.

"If we are looking at this long term, and we have to do online learning instruction in the fall, I definitely think that changes will need to be made," Jaimes said. "Possibly more research needs to go into implementing effective online teaching strategies."

East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education secretary Chris Martin said the plan has to be more extensive if online learning continues in the fall.

"I think that we put the teachers in a really difficult position because the in-person school year ended so abruptly, and they have to put together an online program for students who have no familiarity with online learning,” Martin said. “They have done a really good job this year."

Martin said he personally believes East Lansing Public Schools should allow students to have the option to receive either a letter grade or credit/no credit on their transcript, citing that many have begun applying to colleges and universities.

"There is concern among parents that these students work really hard to differentiate themselves and they're not getting an opportunity for their transcripts to reflect that," Martin said. "And my reasoning for that is that most school districts that I am aware of are offering the high school students a chance to have a grade on their transcript.”

Joy Campbell, mother of two, said it's helpful to have some guidance, and the COL plans help create structure for her children and keep them in touch with their teachers. 

"I think we have to give the district a lot of space,” Campbell said. “This came very suddenly. Of course there has been frustration. We had to learn a new system, and it took some time to put it in place."

Campbell said for the first few weeks, she and her children were doing their own lessons and it's nice to not be on their own anymore.

“Rather than gripe about specific complaints, I just feel like everybody is doing the best that they can,” Campbell said. “Nothing is perfect, and we're just gonna get through it."

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