The first official day of school in Clear Creek ISD is a week away, with all students starting remotely Aug. 24.
Brick-and-mortar learners, which make up more than 60% of the district’s 42,000 students, will begin the year using the district’s School-to-Home model. These students will switch to in-person instruction in phases from Aug. 31 to Sept. 14.
Families not yet comfortable with brick-and-mortar education can send their children to school online through the district’s new Clear Connections platform; Clear Connections schooling begins Aug. 24 and is available to K-12 students.
Superintendent Greg Smith expressed optimism about the opportunity to reimagine education amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Education can occur anywhere, at any time, at any pace, and we’re trying to respond to that,” Smith said in July, adding as the community adapts, “[this could] really be our finest hour.”
Here are four things to know about online learning in CCISD during the 2020-21 school year.
Students should connect to CCISD internet before school starts
Chief Technology Officer Robert Bayard advised students during an Aug. 13 livestream update to connect to CCISD’s internet network on their school-issued device sometime before Aug. 24 so relevant computer programs can receive updates. Free internet access is available outside numerous campuses.
Any students who are using personal devices and no longer need their school-issued computer can drop the device off at 330 S. Iowa Ave. from 1-4 p.m. through Aug. 20. The laptop technician team can be reached to inquire about repairs at 281-284-0500 from 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
Between now and Aug. 24, students and parents can expect to receive correspondence from teachers and campus administrators. Schedules will be available to view the weekend of Aug. 21, administrators said.
Parents will act as learning coaches, not teachers
For remote learners, parents will be expected to help students stay accountable during the school day. This includes assisting them with using and logging into the correct online platforms, doing so in a timely manner for each class, helping students manage their time throughout the day and encouraging daily reflection after lessons are complete, Bayard said.
Parent trainings will begin Aug. 18, when district officials will take parents step by step through navigating Skyward, ItsLearning and Microsoft Teams. Students will begin using Teams via a web-based version in ItsLearning, Bayard said.
Using Teams will prevent meetings from being hacked and allow teachers and students to establish a secure visual connection with each other during class time. These types of visual checks are essential for relationship-building and understanding on academic, emotional and social levels, Bayard said.
Parents should also keep an eye on their students’ posture during the day, he added: a good workspace for online education will have students sitting, not slouching, with their feet on the floor or a stool and the laptop at eye level.
Technology will be made accessible to all district families
Administrators are confident the district can provide internet access to every family in need of assistance, particularly after the recent purchase of 1,000 additional hot spots. Aside from a stable internet connection, every student learning remotely needs a computer with a keyboard, a mouse, a webcam and a microphone, all of which are included with student devices, Bayard said. The district is also selling laptop insurance for district devices at $20 per year.
For third- through sixth-graders, technology pickup will be organized at the campus level. Fourth- and fifth-graders will meet their teachers via curbside technology pickup on either Aug. 21 or Aug. 24 depending on the campus, administrators said Aug. 13. Most sixth-graders will receive their devices this week.
The district’s board of trustees approved $5 million in spending to complete CCISD’s 1:1 device program, meaning K-3 students will now also have their own laptops. The laptops were ordered at the end of July and are expected to be available for families in need by mid-October, administrators said.
Bayard advised families not to disinfect their devices with abrasive cleaners like Windex, but instead to use a damp cloth with isopropyl alcohol at a concentration of 60%-70%. The district’s maintenance team will clean campus computer labs nightly, he added.
Clear Connections is structured for relationship-building, real-time education
A principal, counselors and lead teachers, all separate from the existing district staff, will work with Clear Connections students. About $4 million has been spent on new staff hires for the 2020-21 school year. By having the remote education staff separate from those teaching on campuses, online learners will have a chance to better develop one-on-one relationships with their teachers, administrators said.
Class sizes in Clear Connections will be about the same as physical class sizes, Bayard said during an Aug. 13 livestream update. Unlike how online learning was structured from March to May, a minimum of three school days per week must include synchronous learning, meaning students will be present in real time.
Students who enroll in Clear Connections must stay with this style of learning for a full grading period. If a student switches to in-person education after a grading period, campus administrators will evaluate the student’s schedule and match their Clear Connections classes to in-person offerings as best as possible.