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Nearly 17% of LPS students opt for remote learning, many from low-income schools
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Nearly 17% of LPS students opt for remote learning, many from low-income schools

From the Milestones in Nebraska's coronavirus fight series
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Remote Learning, 4.14

Carlitos Villanueva, 6, holds up a math flash card that determines the number of times his sister is to jump rope in the family's driveway, one of the ways the family took their education outside during remote learning last spring.

Elementary and middle school students — especially those from low-income schools — have shown the most interest in learning remotely when Lincoln Public Schools opens Aug. 12.

District officials said as of the July 31 deadline, 6,771 students had filed requests, though officials had to verify those requests, and parents could still ask to have their children learn remotely even after the deadline.

But so far, 16.8% of the district's more than 42,000 students will learn at home, Zooming into their classrooms where teachers will also be teaching students in person.

Of those, 3,121 (17.4%) are elementary school students; 1,652 (17.7%) are middle school students and 1,998 (15.3%) are high school students.

Surprisingly, some of the district’s Title I schools — those with high levels of students living in poverty — had the most students wanting to learn remotely. Those who have raised equity concerns feared that more-affluent parents would be better able to have their students learn remotely.

Matt Larson, LPS associate superintendent of instruction, said officials didn’t know why students in those schools seemed to favor the option, but hope to learn more during the verification process.

Staff met with different groups of students — those with special needs and English language learners, for instance — to make sure they understood what remote learning was and what was involved in it, he said.

At the elementary school level, Belmont had the most students (161, or 22%) sign up for remote learning. McPhee, a much smaller school, had the largest percentage of its students sign up (29.5%, or 75 students).

Wysong Elementary in south Lincoln, one of the newer schools, had the fewest students sign up (38, or 6.4%).

Of middle schools, Irving had the most students sign up (23.9%, or 211) compared with Moore, which had the least (9.4%, or 59 students).

At the high schools, Lincoln High had the most remote learners (442, or 18.5%) and Southwest had the fewest (264, or 12.4%).

As it did during the fourth quarter of last school year and in summer school, LPS will provide Wi-Fi hot spots to students without reliable internet access.

But that’s where the similarities to last school year’s remote learning will end, Larson said.

Students will be required to Zoom into all their classrooms daily and teachers will take attendance, he said. Students may get offline for part of the class to do their work, but when they are Zooming in, they'll have multiple ways to interact — either through a chat feature or raising their hands over Zoom, or pressing a button.

Teachers and administrators at each building will decide how best to organize the remote learning with teachers and classrooms, Larson said.

Before school starts, teachers will have a variety of professional learning opportunities to familiarize themselves with teaching remotely, said Sarah Salem, director of continuous improvement and professional learning.

Instructional coaches and others will be available to help, and teachers will have time to practice setting up their technology, and can individualize their learning so they spend time on the elements of remote learning they need most help with, she said.

Superintendent Steve Joel thanked teachers and staff for the work needed to make school successful, and acknowledged LPS is asking teachers and principals to do more to make education work in a different environment.

“It’s going to be a new experience for everybody,” he said. “I think we’re walking into a new environment, and I think we’re going to have to adjust as we get into the school year. And I think we’ll do that.”

Reopening schools in Lincoln: Balancing educational harm of staying closed with risk of the virus
NSAA board reaffirms Aug. 10 start to fall sports, leaves transfer rules intact
LPS moves to staggered schedules for high schools when classes start

Photos: Lincoln during the pandemic

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist

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Local government reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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School doesn't start until Wednesday but four LPS teachers back at work have tested positive for COVID-19, and a total of 14 -- including those who came into close contact -- have had to quarantine. 

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