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Although no one is quite sure what going back to school will look like this fall, the Ellensburg School District has chosen a few new tools to help the online portion of its curriculum.

Schools were forced to use remote education at the end of last school year, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused the state to close all schools. Many districts including Ellensburg adopted online programs that many teachers and students had to learn on the fly.

The online programs used received massive complaints from students, parents and teachers. To make remote learning easier in the fall, the district has researched and decided on two new programs, Edgenuity and Schoology.

Executive Director of Special Services/Operation Kelly Kronbauer said the district let teachers use whatever program they felt comfortable with last year. For students and families, it was complicated to manage these different programs, and the process was confusing for everybody.

“It became overwhelming,” Kronbauer said. “There was literately a ton of them (online programs), so different teachers were all using different platforms.”

In response, ESD has decided Edgenuity and Schoology will be constants throughout all grade levels. These programs are the only ones teachers and students will use.

Kronbauer said one of the good things about Schoology is that all the work teachers have done in Google Classroom, the most common remote education program used last year, will transfer to Schoology.

“Everything the teachers ever worked on is already there for them,” Kronbauer said.

The programs Edgenuity and Schoology are separate, but they can work together, which is one of the reasons they were selected to be used by the district. Edgenuity is a learning management system (LMS), and will be the program used to teach grades 6-12. Grades K-5 will be taught through Schoology.

Kronbauer said ESD was very happy with Edgenuity’s courseware with the older grade levels but thought the younger grades would benefit from Schoology.

The district will also be taking advantage of Schoology’s program management system. Schoology can manage all programs being used by the district. This will streamline the process of finding information online. Kronbauer said one of the complaints regarding online learning was there were too many locations to find information.

“It’s a program that speaks back and forth with a ton of different programs, so you could be working in Edgenuity, but actually be in the Schoology platform. It’s pretty slick,” Kronbauer said.

According to Director of Teaching and Learning, Jennifer Kuntz, deciding on the best programs to be used by the district was a team effort. The district started looking for a new online learning program around the end of May and had surveys and feedback from multiple stakeholders such as teachers, students and parents.

Most teachers will begin training in the new programs when they return to work Aug. 31, although Kuntz said they are looking for teachers eager to learn the new programs to begin early. These teachers will then act as guides and instructors to their colleagues while they learn the programs.

ESD is operating on a hybrid back to school schedule. This means all students will be split into two groups “A” and “B” and attend school on alternating days. On days when a group is not attending class, they will be taking classes online.

However, due to the severity of the coronavirus, the district expects some families will not want to send their kids to school in person. To ensure these students continue their education, the district is allowing them to take all classes online.

“We have families that want their kids back to school, and we have families that don’t want their kids back to school,” Kronbauer said. “We are just trying to provide and option for both.”

Kronbauer said the district created an entire new program called Virtual Academy, which will use Edgenuity and Schoology to teach all kids in the district online whether they are attending online class alternating days, or full time.

Some teachers in the district will also be teaching entirely online, creating online classrooms for students to learn. Kronbauer said ESD will have teachers who are “dedicated virtual academy teachers,” who will be pulled from the district sometime in the next few weeks.

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