New survey shows challenges in continuous learning online

While Kansas’ continuous learning plans during the coronavirus school closure have received high marks, districts are reporting challenges, especially in reaching some students online, according to a new survey released Tuesday.

Kansas K-12 schools were shut down March 17 through an executive order by Gov. Laura Kelly. Kelly also ordered the Kansas State Department of Education to formulate guidance for school districts to put in place continuous learning plans for the state’s half million students.

These plans — many of which were launched within a week of school closures — include online instruction, paper lesson packets and small group teaching.

After the State Board of Education approved the plans last month, board members said they wanted to hear how schools were doing.

KSDE officials surveyed public and private school districts, asking them how the plans were going, what changes have been made since implementation, how students are engaged in learning, what families think about the plans and how many meals are being served to students. Here is a link to that survey.

Of 343 survey responses from public and private districts, 263 cited inactivity of students or truancy issues, and 235 reported lack of internet service as barriers encountered while providing continuous learning opportunities. Another 166 districts said lack of technology skills was a problem, while 141 reported families were not responding and 81 said they had no valid means of contacting families.

On internet capabilities, those who did not have access cited monetary reasons, lack of both devices and broadband service.

When it comes to providing meals, schools are providing to students through pickups and deliveries almost as many breakfasts during the school closure as last year when students were in schools.

During a one-week period, school districts served 601,443 breakfasts as compared with 650,396 breakfasts in 2019. But more than twice as many lunches were served last year during the same period as this year — 1.6 million as compared with 652,076. For supper, districts served 13,871 meals as compared with 17,192 in 2019.

Districts applauded the assistance they were getting from the state, but also said they needed continued support in engaging families in virtual learning, professional development for online learning and content for virtual classrooms.

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