School district rolls out 2021 remote learning plan

Officials guarantee remote, in-person education will be equitable

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/6/21

Students enrolling in Jeffco Public Schools’ remote learning program for the 2021-22 school year can expect an equitable learning experience on par with in-person school, district officials told …

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School district rolls out 2021 remote learning plan

Officials guarantee remote, in-person education will be equitable

Posted

Students enrolling in Jeffco Public Schools’ remote learning program for the 2021-22 school year can expect an equitable learning experience on par with in-person school, district officials told parents at a Facebook live event on March 18.

The program will have a strong focus on synchronous learning and allowing students to be part of their home school with the ability to attend events, participate in athletics and extra-curricular activities such as performing in school plays.

In addition, seniors will receive their diplomas from and graduate with their current home high school. All students will have the option to return to their school in the 2022-23 school year without re-applying to attend that school.

Jeffco Schools’ Interim Superintendent Kristopher Schuh said the district expected strong participation in next year’s remote offering, noting roughly 20% of the district’s 80,000 students chose the remote-learning option this year.

According to Interim Deputy Superintendent Marcia Anker, the district conducted a survey in February to gauge interest in a remote program. She said the overall response rate was about 33%, and out of those, more than 1,300 families said they would be interested in a remote option next year, affirming the district’s decision to move forward with the remote option.

COVID-19 is still playing a role in choosing the learning environment some families are comfortable with, while others simply think remote works better for their child, Anker said.

Community Superintendent Matthew Walsh is heading up the program. No stranger to non-traditional learning approaches, Walsh has overseen the district’s option, alternative and dual-enrollment schools for the past eight years. He’s also been an important cog in the remote machine for this school year.

“I worked closely with high school principals on the overall restart program and delivering the in-person and remote options in our high schools,” he said. “Since then, I’ve been working closely with Jeffco Virtual Academy, better understanding what they offer to our students.”

Walsh said he was approached and had a great interest in being the lead on the new program, not just for the year ahead and dealing with the pandemic, but also for future opportunities remote learning pairs with in education.

He said the main difference between next year’s remote program and the current virtual academy program is the new program will be primarily synchronous. 

“Students will have the opportunity to have face-to-face conversations in instruction with their teachers on a daily basis,” he said. “Families are excited about it because it provides structure and organization for students.”

Schuh reiterated the district’s commitment to creating a remote program that equals in-person learning in every way. He said the goal is to provide a consistent, equitable, high-quality, comprehensive experience for all students across all schools including options and charters. 

Part of reaching that goal will hinge on the district’s ability to keep remote learners engaged and connected to their home school. Anker said the expectation is that the school will reach out to remote learners on a regular basis — at least weekly in a variety of ways.

Although many teachers are currently teaching in-person and remote students at the same time, Walsh said that won’t be the case next year. The district will hire teachers solely to teach remote students to ensure an equitable experience. 

Families who are or may be interested in the new program can already see class offerings on the district’s Remote Learning website.

Walsh said the district will offer Advanced Placement classes, honors and a wide range of unique electives. He thinks families will be pleasantly surprised when they see the comprehensive and competitive course list.

How can you enroll your child?

Mackenzie Nickum, Jeffco’s director of enrollment services, said through December and January, the district asked families to go online and choose their school at Enroll Jeffco. The site is considered the best way for families to choose their learning environment (remote or in-person) as well.

To begin, log-in to Enroll Jeffco with a Jeffco Connect username and password. Once inside, click “Let’s get started” and follow the prompts. On the second page there will be a question asking which learning environment you want to pursue. Users will have the options of “remote,” “in-person” or “not sure.”

Each school has a remote version. For example, there’s a Wilmot Elementary and a remote Wilmot Elementary option. 

Apply to the schools you’re interested in, click next and submit. Keep in mind that you’re guaranteed a spot at the school you’re currently enrolled in.

There’s no lottery system for remote school — applications are processed as they’re submitted. The district is taking anyone who wants to enroll in remote learning until April 7. After that, district officials will start looking at capacity, and there may be a waitlist depending on available space for either remote or in-person, so if a family wants to switch after that point, it will depend on availability of spots.

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