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Ashwaubenon schools prepare for online instruction

By Kevin Boneske
Staff Writer

ASHWAUBENON – With district schools having closed for students through at least April 24 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ashwaubenon’s information technology staff members have arranged for starting online instruction March 30 after spring break.

Jamie Averbeck, instructional technology coordinator, informed the Ashwaubenon school board Wednesday, March 18, on the steps taken to provide resources for making remote learning possible, which he said included providing 247 devices to families with children in grades 4K-7.

“Those were devices… that were not meant to go home with kids,” he said. “We worked with a vendor to identify ways we could detect the devices.”

Averbeck said one device was provided per family, while there would be enough time in a day for families with multiple students to use the devices at different times.

He said the district has also been seeking community resources to provide connectivity, such as Spectrum offering free internet service for 60 days.

For the district to be able to communicate with parents, Averbeck said teachers will be contacting parents with communication tools used in the past, such as with Gmail or the SeeSaw program.

“The reason we did that is we really didn’t have time to show our teachers a new way, and we didn’t want to put any stress on our parents to have to learn something new,” he said. “We stuck with what we knew.”

Because students in grades 3-12 are able to use a Chromebook and able to access what they need for online school, Averbeck said teachers will communicate with students, as appropriate, using tools such as SeeSaw and Google Classroom.

“We didn’t want a learning curve with our communication,” he said.

Averbeck said the district is also advertising all the learning resources on its website.

In addition, Averbeck said the district is using Google Hangouts for the opportunity to have face-to-face contact.

With multiple online classes offered to students in grades 9-12, High School Principal Dirk Ribbens said teachers are able to contact students directly with Google Classroom.

Ribbens said there is a “fair amount of anxiety among kids and teachers” to not have students physically in classes for the time being.

“It’s not like summer vacation, where there’s finality and there’s a routine in that finality,” he said. “There’s a fair amount of uncertainty, which is why one of our big concerns is the mental and emotional health of our students. We know that for a lot of our kids, the healthiest, happiest part of their year is the time they spend in school. That’s the feeling, frankly. Yes, there are kids that are looking at this as a vacation.”

Pupil Services Director Tammy Nicholson said special education teachers and educational associates have created communication logs for students to keep track of who contacts the student, when and what was discussed.

“They can kind of all stay in the loop as far as what’s going on and to monitor some of those social-emotional issues that could become more problematic for kids,” she said.

Ribbens said no firm decisions have been made at this point regarding whether to cancel what he called the high school’s “big culminating school culture activities.”

“We have pushed things like prom, senior night, as far back as we can make reservations with the hope that we’ll be able to do as least some of those things,” he said.

Superintendent Kurt Weyers said district staff met for about 2 1/2 weeks regarding how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic leading up to the district closing schools for students Tuesday, March 17.

“I can’t tell you how impressed (Business Director) Keith (Lucius) and I are with our team, with our staff, with our students, everyone, to make this (online instruction possible),” Weyers said. “Jamie, the website’s phenomenal.”

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