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Boquet: Making a success out of the Virtual Learning Program

We are just a couple of weeks away from starting the new school year, with a whole new way to teach and learn in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Our new Virtual Learning Program students will kick off the school year on Aug. 31. They will be joined a week later by our first through third grade full-time students and our fourth – 12th grade hybrid model students, who will attend school in person two days a week and online the other three days. Our littlest learners in pre-K, Head Start and kindergarten will start school Sept. 14.

The decision to stagger the start of the school year will allow our teachers to acclimate to the new Virtual Learning Program with those students before all students return the week after.

With all these online learners comes the challenge of getting technology in the hands of students as school districts across the country compete for devices due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Computers were ordered for students at the end of last school year and the first shipment of Dell 3190 laptops, with hard cases specifically designed for student use, has been configured for students, deployed to schools and is ready to be handed out to families when orientations begin next week. An additional 400 laptops for students were secured through a grant from Marathon.

All students in the Virtual Learning Program who registered by the deadline will receive laptops from the district. The remaining laptops will be distributed to hybrid model students by grade level, starting with the highest grade and working down. Both of our high schools will be 1:1 schools this year, meaning one device will be provided to every student, and most hybrid model students in our upper elementary grades will receive them as well.

Our second shipment of laptops is expected at the beginning of November and, at that time, we will be a 1:1 school district, able to provide a laptop to every student enrolled in the district. Until then, students without devices will be provided with high-quality, Tier 1 Curriculum packets to work on during their at-home days to be returned to their teacher when they go back to school.

Our teachers returned to school this week and are getting classrooms ready and receiving professional development in virtual learning and COVID-19 procedures, in addition to all the usual back-to-school prep.

Know that all employees, from teachers to administrators, cafeteria workers to custodial staff, are hard at work preparing for this new normal. Undoubtedly there will be kinks that will have to be worked out and we appreciate the patience of our students and parents as we all work together to make this new way of teaching and learning a success.

 

Jennifer Boquet is communications specialist for St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools. She can be reached at jboquet@stjohn.k12.la.us.