Starting next year, K-8 students in the Dysart Unified School District have another option when it comes to learning.
Every student transitioned to a form of online learning when the COVID-19 pandemic closed school campuses in March 2020. For some, the process was successful and those students transitioned to the iSchool format for the 2020-21 school year, while others returned to attend school in person.
Previously, iSchool was only available to high school students, but beginning in August, Dysart’s K-8 students also have an online option. The new program offers an early start schedule from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. including live lessons, independent learning, small group sessions and specials.
Dana Knoebel, director of district curriculum, instruction and assessment, said students will take core classes such as math, science, social studies, language arts, art and physical education using Florida Virtual as the curriculum resource.
K-8 online students will be taught by an appropriately certified teacher online. Teachers in K-5 will be responsible for teaching one grade level only depending on enrollment numbers.
Middle school teachers will teach one subject, classes will be taught from a classroom and students may access learning from any location. Students will be able to move from K-8 online or in person at the start or end of each quarter and before July 12 for the upcoming school year. The change must be made within one week of the end of the quarter. The first dates to make the switch are Oct. 11-15.
“Attendance will be taken twice a day during the morning huddle and after lunch. Students are required to attend the morning huddle, live lesson and check-in after lunch, which can be done by email,” Ms. Knoebel said.
K-8 online students are required to take the benchmark and any state-level testing in person at the student’s home school.
Extracurricular activities and sports are open to students at the home or open enrolled campus.
Teachers are responsible for lesson planning, whole group and live small group instruction, grading and parent and student communication. Ms. Knoebel said kindergarten will have approximately 28 students, followed by first grade with 34 and fourth through eighth grade with approximately 40 students. Those class counts will depend on overall enrollment.
“We know this year some of our students were very successful with online learning and some struggled, and so for those not as successful we really wanted to spend time and make sure students are successful. So next year there is criteria for this program,” she said.
To participate in the iSchool, students must have a passing grade in both math and reading from the 2020-21 school year, have been promoted to next grade level and not retained for the 2021-22 school year. To remain enrolled for the K-8 online program, the requirement to stay is to earn passing grades quarterly in math and reading.
Stephen Poling, assistant superintendent for education services, said district officials are excited to have the new program, and the goal is to make sure there is regular interaction throughout the school day with students and teachers.
Governing board member Chrystal Chaffin addressed concerns at a previous board meeting with social studies being left out. Ms. Knoebel explained dedicated time to each subject will take place.
DUSD parent Natalie Cunningham has an incoming freshman at Shadow Ridge High School in Surprise. The family took part in the iSchool program and quickly realized the importance of personalized learning. The middle-school son is extremely intelligent, Ms. Cunningham said, but struggles with change and was anxious having just moved to the district.
“I pulled him out and let him do iSchool at home and his grades were amazing and went up to As and he was more relaxed,” she said.
Ms. Cunningham said having one-on-one time with the iSchool teacher and getting more attention without distractions was a big benefit for her family. Her older son struggled to complete work from home online so going back to school on campus next year is a better fit for him.
She said she appreciated the program and glad her children attend in a district where online school is an option for K-8 grade because it was very helpful to her family.
Additionally, she said all the resources a students needs is available and the lessons are laid out.
She said the kids knew how to work everything and the program make it simple for the students. And the experience of an online education was a positive one for her, with more support she said than she experienced in person.
“They are always available and would benefit a lot of kids in their learning if parents just tried it and take away the stress from kids which opens them up to learn more,” Ms. Cunningham said.
To request enrollment, log on to https://www.dysart.org/Sites/Default.aspx?pgID=6792.
For questions about Special Education or IEPs, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporter Jennifer Jimenez can be reached at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @SCW_Independent.