photo: Unsplash

Last week, the Wilton School District released its “Quarantine Learning Plan” outlining how the district will continue to provide learning opportunities to students who are unable to attend class in person due to COVID infection.

Refined last year, the plan was modified slightly over the summer following legislative changes by the CT State Legislature prohibiting “dual instruction,” which the state defines as “simultaneous instruction by a teacher to students in-person in the classroom and students engaged in remote learning. Includes involving students such as with questioning, group work, etc.”

Because the district has used live streaming over Zoom as a “window” into the classroom during instruction to allow at-home grade 3-12 students (restricted only to students who have tested COVID-positive) to continue to access instruction, Wilton officials were eager to have the State Department of Education (SDE) clarify whether live streaming would be considered “dual instruction” — and therefore prohibited.

“This could potentially be a problem for us if we’re not able to stream for kids at home. It’s really an incredible disappointment, to say the least,” Superintendent Kevin Smith said at the Thursday, Aug. 17 Board of Education meeting, adding that the ultimate decision was outside the district’s control.

Thankfully, it appears the SDE will allow live streaming to continue, limited only to COVID-positive at-home students. Official state-wide guidance hasn’t been issued, but Smith said he “had been reaching out to reps from the SDE all summer,” and finally heard that “state guidance was going to look a lot our plan.”

Smith told GOOD Morning Wilton that live-stream access was critical for keeping quarantined students from losing critical learning time.

“Last year, we utilized this approach where students can tune into a class, but may not have the opportunity to have real-time interaction with the teacher. They certainly have the opportunity to follow up via email or when they return to school in person. We felt like the opportunity to have the class, or portions of it, live streamed was better than having no access and needing to make up the content once they return. The general feedback from students and staff was that this was effective at preventing students from falling behind,” Smith said.

He’s pleased the SDE agreed and saw how important passive access to classroom time can be for students who have to remain at home.

“If we accept the definition of dual teaching as simultaneously instructing students in person and remotely, then this approach does not meet that definition. I think the SDE recognizes that challenge of continuing to need to manage COVID-19 as well as the opportunity for remote participation enabled by tools like cameras and learning management systems,” Smith told GMW.

The Quarantine Learning Plan outlines multiple strategies to support learning, including asynchronous, synchronous and other supports — both a “window into the classroom” as well as asynchronous materials through Schoology, the district’s learning management system.

The plan is the district’s way to encourage students to continue being engaged and learning during quarantine periods that may last five days or longer.

In no uncertain terms, the plan specifies — in bold font — that “teachers may use Zoom to log in to class for students to ‘view’ the class but will not be interacting with the remote student.”

How this is done depends on the age of the student, the specific course, and the individual student’s ability to successfully use the technology.

The Plan

Criteria to Participate: Wilton Public Schools has specific criteria for students to participate in quarantine learning:

  • Students must be in isolation due to a confirmed COVID-19 infection. Students with “general illness symptoms” or who are traveling will be considered absent. Students participating in COVID-related quarantine learning will be marked “remote-present.”
  • Any family pursuing quarantine learning during a student’s period of quarantine or isolation must contact the building administrator and school nurse for approval. Once a student has been approved for quarantine learning, the school staff will share the protocol for accessing remote instruction during the student’s quarantine period.

Approach varies by age, course and individual student: The district summarized general elements of the plan for each grade level (with details provided directly by each school as necessary):

  • Miller-Driscoll (pre-K to Grade 2): students who are quarantining will be able to access Schoology for asynchronous assignments (not based on a specific schedule) unless otherwise indicated by the teacher.
  • Grades 3-12: students, when directed by the teachers, will attend class via live stream for the direct instruction portion of classes using Zoom, and access asynchronous activities via Schoology. The settings in Zoom will be set to support cohesive in-class instruction while allowing the at-home learners the ability to observe and listen to in-class instruction. Some work will be provided asynchronously through Schoology. Attendance will be based on student completion of assigned work and/or classwork.

More specific details broken out by school and grade will be provided by each school on a case by case basis.