Fairmont Area Schools plan for ‘distance learning’
FAIRMONT — The Fairmont Area School Board led by example Tuesday, conducting its first online meeting. The board talked about moving forward with online distance education.
According to high school Principal Alex Schmidt, the Minnesota Department of Education has not given any official word on the statewide school shutdown beyond Friday, so the board is moving forward by anticipating a shutdown extension.
Principals Andy Traetow and Michelle Rosen detailed their efforts working with staff on implementing distance learning.
“We’ve really encouraged our teachers, with the rapid pace that information has been changing and is distributed, to really suppress the need to plan for too far out,” Traetow said. “We’ve been taking it hour by hour and day by day in our planning in preparation in the anticipated application of our distance learning plan.”
“Our staff has been phenomenal,” Rosen said. “We’re really working now on that platform to get it out to parents and staff. We’ve been taking advice from our high school colleagues and other colleagues around the state, and we’re beginning to build a platform for them so they can use devices or apps they’ve already used.
“We’re also doing a paper/pencil piece so those families that don’t have that internet access or the device, we can still reach them this week and continue making plans for them to get internet access, with Midco stepping up and helping families in this area. We’re really looking at what’s age-appropriate from preschool to grade six. Families have a lot of new stresses and we don’t want school to be an added stress, so we’re really segmenting it for parents and teachers to be able to help students continue with their learning.”
Schmidt said he and Principal Jake Tietje have experienced similar goodwill as they have begun to prepare staff and students for continued distance learning.
“We started off looking at lesson plans and what it looks like on a daily basis as well as a unit,” he said. “Then we had some optional learning opportunities for staff to take a look at different e-learning tools. That’s anywhere from a learning management system in Google, to different engagement strategies.”
The high school staff recently conducted a trial run with a Zoom meeting, and teachers were able to share what they were doing in their classrooms. Schmidt said conferences over the phone went well, and noted that teachers will be looking at things such as attendance protocol and accommodation tools.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into giving staff professional development on what they can do on an e-learning format,” Schmidt said.
Tietje shared with the board a student HyperDoc, which will provide students with e-learning schedules as well as other links and resources. Students will have to fill out an attendance form and will be able to communicate with teachers.
On another positive note, Superintendent Joe Brown said he had been in contact with CHS.
“I received a phone call and was asked how much we had in deficit in the food service account,” Brown said. “We had about $2,000 of students and a few staff members. They called me back two days later and said that CHS would like to donate $5,000 for our Food Service Angel Fund account to wipe out those debts and help our families.”
The donation was approved unanimously.