USD 373 online school plan taking shape

Chad Frey
Students who signed up for remote-only, or online, school in Newton USD 373 for the fall semester will be able to pick up Chromebooks during "Family Engagement Opportunities" starting Aug. 31.

The first day of school in Newton USD 373 is coming — scheduled for Sept. 3. It is no secret that school will look different this year as efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 continue.

For about 22% of students in the Newton district, it will look radically different Sept. 3 as some of their classmates head back to school buildings. That 22% signed up for remote-only — online — instruction for the fall term.

Their parents, or caregivers, will need to provide six hours of school each day.

“They need to do six hours of work each day,” said Samantha Anderson, public information director for USD 373. “This can include computer work, P.E., art, science, reading time, discussion time. It won't all be at a computer.”

Though the plans for parental signoffs and accounting were not complete at the last board of education meeting Aug. 25, there will be a requirement for that.

“The plan is for the lessons to be asynchronous so students and families can get to it whenever they have the opportunity,” Anderson said. “They just need to hit that six hours per day. It is possible to make up hours on the weekend as well.”

Remote learners will need to make at least one visit to a school building, however. Family Engagement Opportunities will be Aug. 31-Sept. 2. Each building has its own times, and parents are being notified of those times.

“This will be an opportunity to meet teachers as well as learn more about navigating remote and flexible learning,” Anderson said.

That includes, if needed, picking up a Chromebook to use for school.

For remote learners, USD 373 district is providing devices — just as the district did in the spring semester after Gov. Laura Kelly ordered school buildings closed across the state. There will also be a limited number of “hotspots” (cellular-based internet connection devices) available.

“We are one-to-one so each student has a Chromebook,” Anderson said. “We also ordered some hotspots for families who may need them. If any families are interested, they should have indicated that on a form they filled out a few weeks ago. If they did not, they'll just need to contact their building.”