FORSYTH COUNTY — As temperatures start to drop and colors take shape on trees, the general consensus among Forsyth County school system officials is not if — but when — the district will have an inclement weather day.
And when school does close due to snow or ice or just extreme cold, teachers and students will have more streamlined and updated expectations for itslearning, the online learning portal that was pioneered districtwide last winter.
After gathering and analyzing feedback from school administration, teachers, students and parents, the changes made to the plan were aimed at making assignments easier to find, with a workload resembling an actual school day.
“This prepares them for the work world because there the expectations are the same if you’re working remotely,” said Tom Cleveland, District 3 Board of Education member. “You can do it everywhere because it’s all the same, regardless of where you’re doing it from.”
Itslearning was used for the first time last winter when inclement weather days were not included in the school calendar. Instead of making up days at the end of the year or during a flex day, students were asked to complete assignments that were posted online.
Complaints centered around workload, accessibility due to power outages and teachers posting lessons on different places in the portal.
A significant change is that students will have three days instead of five to complete work. A student has three days to complete missed work after a regular absence.
Also, attendance reporting is not required by the teacher.
Changes to teacher expectations signaled for a normal-school day workload.
Before, students were required to complete one assignment for every subject every day school was out.
But during a classroom-based school day, students are not asked to turn in something for every teacher every day. Sometimes they just read or listen to a lesson or work on a project.
To simplify workflow for elementary students and parents, officials said, online learning days will be block days.
If school closes on an “A Day,” English language arts and social studies assignments or lessons will be posted for everyone, while kindergarten through second-grade students will have art and third-fifth grades will have music and physical education.
“B Day” closures will have math and science for all elementary grades. Kindergarten-second-grade students will do music and PE, and third-fifth grades will have art.
Lessons should be posted by 9 a.m. daily, unless there is a power outage. Teachers should also communicate during the school year how students can find lessons on the site and how to contact them with questions on an online learning day.
Digital office hours should help with questions and communication this year.
Elementary school teachers will be available for office hours 9 to 10 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m., while middle school office hours are 10 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 2 p.m.
Teachers should provide feedback for work submitted electronically if school is closed for more than two days.
They are also expected to submit electronic classroom data at the end of the school closure event.
Assignment length should range 20 to 30 minutes and is at the teacher’s discretion.
The same itslearning resources tool is located on every school’s website in the top right corner.