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Columbia Public Schools Update Families On Learning Options

Columbia Public School parents, students and teachers tuned into an informational webinar Thursday night to learn more about learning options for middle and high school students.

Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Jennifer Rukstad presented the district's updated learning plan, released Wednesday, and offered more details about the options. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions via Zoom's Q&A feature.

For the in-person hybrid model, CPS middle and high school will have a 4-block model. CPS traditionally has an 8-block model, where students have four classes a day and alternate every other day. In the 4-block model, however, students will take four of their classes in Semester 1 (ending Jan. 15) and the other four in Semester 2 (beginning Jan. 19).

Schedules for both middle and high school classes will be the same every day. Middle school core classes will be taken two at a time by quarter, in addition to daily electives. High school classes will be offered by semester.

Students will learn in person two days per week and have three days of online learning.

"Under different circumstances, I would not advocate for a (4-block) model," Rukstad said. However, it allows students a consistent schedule and teachers a manageable workload, she said.

Students will be divided into two groups by last name to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Group 1 will be in-person Mondays and Tuesdays, and Group 2 will be in person Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be used to disinfect between groups.

In-person classes will be used by teachers to give instruction and prepare students for the upcoming three days of online learning in which students will complete assignments and online activities on Schoology. On those days, there will be no synchronous virtual instruction. On Wednesdays — online learning for both groups — students will have access to teachers during the first two hours of the day.

Wednesdays will also be a time for teachers and administrators to "calibrate," Rukstad said. "We have to have some time to work on the curriculum. We have to have some time to evaluate how it's working and change it very quickly."

For students taking AP courses, the challenge will be greater. Those taking AP courses in Semester 1 will be given additional help and guidance in Semester 2 to prepare for AP exams. Students taking AP courses in Semester 2 will complete class content prior to the exams and will have test preparation similar to students taking AP classes in the first semester.

Students enrolled in the Early College program will still take those courses, in addition to their CPS classes. Students dual-enrolled at MU or other colleges will have time in their schedules to take those courses.

Elementary School Plan

According to a separate plan released Wednesday, families will have two learning options for elementary school — fully virtual or in-person. The fully virtual option, CPSElementary@Mizzou, will take place five days a week. Students will be provided with a device and any other materials they need to get the most out of classes. If families choose this option, their student will have to stay with virtual learning until the end of the semester.

Requests to move students out of the virtual option will be taken in January. Moves will be determined by class sizes and teacher availability.

The elementary in-person option has three models:

  • All in-person.
  • In-person hybrid.
  • All-virtual.

The in-person option is the least likely to be chosen for now, according to the plan. In the hybrid model, students will attend school two days per week in person and three days per week remotely. Students will also be divided into two groups — Group 1 (last names A-K) and Group 2 (last names L-Z) — to allow adequate social distancing in classrooms.
Remote learning will require students to complete assignments on Schoology. If COVID-19 numbers are too high for either in-person model, there will be a transition to all-virtual learning. CPS will consult with the Boone County/Columbia Health Department to determine which is safest.

To reduce the spread of germs, CPS is requiring families to purchase school supply kits on line, which will arrive at schools before the start of classes. Grading will be the same as in previous years, but special classes (art, music and P.E.) will have adjusted grading to accommodate hybrid or all-virtual options.

The in-person hybrid model for middle and high school will function similarly to that for elementary school. Students will learn in person two days per week and have three days of online learning. They will also be divided into two groups by last name to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

The webinar and all plans can be found on cpsk12.org/fall2020