Grand Island Public Schools has been focusing throughout this school year on precautions such as social distancing and mask wearing as essential steps to be able to keep schools open for in-person learning.
“Continuity of learning is one of our district’s top priorities and we strive to create a safe environment for our students to access in-person educational opportunities,” Superintendent Tawana Grover said in a Jan. 31 column published on this page.
“Keeping our schools open is crucial,” Grover said.
Yet, while most GIPS students are attending classes in their schools, some parents have opted to have their children attend classes virtually. The school district made it possible for families to have that option by creating a virtual school within a school, with specific teachers teaching virtually, while others are teaching in-person classes.
The district has done everything it can to provide regular schedules and social interaction, important parts of attending school, along with the same education that students who are attending in-person classes receive.
Not all parents have the ability to have their children remain home during the school day, while they are at work. But some have been able to make it work for their families.
The idea was that setting up a virtual school would help the district safely educate all its students, keeping in mind parents’ specific safety concerns, until the pandemic was over.
But now GIPS has announced that it hopes to continue offering virtual school next school year.
It makes sense, since so much resources have been used to develop a process to offer virtual school and in-person school at the same time, that the district would want to continue to use what its staff members have learned from the experience to better educate its students.
We have discovered benefits for some students from virtual learning. But others have done better with the return to their classrooms this year. Teachers have had similar experiences. Some thrive with the challenge of developing ways to teach virtually, while others find it too stressful.
So the district is looking into continuing to provide both, but it needs input from parents on what they want for their children’s education next year.
GIPS has been unbelievably accommodating with its families, seeking input and then providing options based on that input. That again will be the case if the district continues the virtual school next fall.
When parents register their children for elementary school for the next school year, they will have the opportunity to say they’re interested in having them continue to participate in virtual school. The intent is to provide one virtual section per elementary grade level.
Grand Island Senior High had a virtual academy in place prior to the pandemic and GIPS plans to continue this. The district is exploring possibilities for virtual middle school, but will need input from parents to determine what that would look like.
This is still preliminary, but if a significant number of parents want their children to continue in virtual school, GIPS will make that possible.
The priority has to be providing a quality education, extracurricular activities and social interaction for all children. We rely on the school district to make sure this can be done well without children falling through the cracks.