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Suski, MASD outline how students will learn with schools closed; elementary students will get iPads

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With public schools closed for an additional two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Middletown Area School District Superintendent Lori Suski announced today how lessons will continue.

Elementary students will receive iPads. No grades will be issued during these two weeks, but teachers will be assigning student activities and work either through Google Classroom or Canvas.

Additionally, Suski said the district will move to serving bagged lunches and snacks three days a week to reduce the number of personnel in the schools.

Meals will be served Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Fink Elementary School and the high school. Students will be given enough food to last more than one day, Suski wrote in a press release.

Students have to be in the car or walk-up to the distribution site to receive the meal.

Gov. Tom Wolf announced on Monday that schools will be closed for an additional two weeks. Schools were to be closed through March 27, but with schools being closed for two more weeks, Suski wrote on Monday that the department of education said the earliest staff could return is April 7 with students returning April 9.

However, the earliest MASD students could return is April 13. MASD’s spring break was scheduled for the evening of April 8 through 13. On Tuesday, Suski wrote that the break is scheduled while religious holidays including Passover and Easter are observed, and schools usually aren’t in session on Good Friday, or April 10 this year.

Suski wrote that the earliest the Middletown students could return is April 13, but the district was talking with the teachers’ association about using April 13 as a teacher preparation day and have students come back April 14.

MASD plans to thoroughly clean and sanitize all of the schools on April 7-9 in preparation for staff and students to return, she wrote.

The third period marking period will be extended to at least April 8, allowing teachers to finalize grades and students to turn in overdue assignments. Originally, the marking period was to end March 26. Report cards would be issued some time during the week of April 13.

In the meantime, Suski said administrators and teachers have been working on plans to continue the students’ education.

Kindergarten through fifth grade students will be given iPads, which were in the district’s existing inventory of past models that were to be sold at the end of the school year.

Sixth-graders through seniors already have devices at home, and Suski noted that with the younger students getting devices, too, every student will have a device to use at home during the closure.

Plans are being developed for the elementary students’ iPads to be picked up starting the week of March 30. Suski said a schedule could be released this week.

Parents and guardians will not have to leave their cars to pick them up. The iPads will be in protective bags including a charger, instructions and a district iPad agreement for parents to complete and submit.

Comcast is offering free internet access for two months, Suski noted.

Student activities and assignments will be posted on Google Classroom for elementary students and on Canvas for middle and high school students late next week for students to work on remotely.

Teachers will contact students about using free Zoom accounts — an application which offers video and audio conferencing — for teachers to work with students individually, in small groups, or as a class. Teachers will also offer “office hours” where they will be available for students who have questions or need support.

“Please note that this does not mean that teachers will be holding their brick-and-mortar classes online according to their in-school schedules. We need to provide flexibility to teachers and students while providing continuity of education,” Suski wrote.

For special needs students, Suski said that teachers and other service providers will be reaching out to parents and student to discuss how their education can be continued using available technology and about IEP meetings that may be conducted virtually.

No grades will be issued during these two weeks, but Suski said that the teachers will provide feedback on assignments and keep track of completed assignments.

“Our goal is to not add to the stress levels of our students, parents or teachers during this unusual situation. We simply want our students to keep learning and stay engaged,” Suski said.

MASD counselors, social workers, nurses and school psychologists will also be available by appointment through Zoom for students. Students and parents can reach out by email to set up an online appointment.