Back to School: Remote learning no longer a permanent solution in Kansas

COLUMBUS, Kan. – What do you think when you hear the phrase “remote learning?”

For some, it could be seeing their kids learning to navigate adversity in the midst of a global pandemic. For others, it could be the exact opposite. Columbus School District Superintendent Brian Smith says over the past year they’ve seen the full gamut.

“Some students worked very well within that system and did fine, Other students struggled with that,” says Smith.

But either way, remote learning is no longer a permanent option.

“The legislature won’t allow remote learning basically,” says Smith.

A new law in Kansas dictates that school districts cannot offer remote learning to students for more than 40 hours.

“The option to go fully remote, even if we were going to consider, was taken out of our hands,” says Girard School District Superintendent Blaise Bauer.

If there are circumstances in which a student has to do remote learning for more than 40 hours in the year, the school will have to submit a waiver request to the Kansas State Department of Education for approval for each instance.

“So we’re also going to have to track the number of hours that they’ve been in remote instruction,” explains Bauer. “If they go over forty, we would then have to go through the local board to approve an exemption, and then have to notify and get approved by the state. It’s an inconvenience, but, of course, we’ll do it so we can provide education for kids if they’re in a pickle.”

But, there’s an option that Columbus is taking advantage of that might make things easier.

“We’re gonna offer virtual school through Greenbush,” says Smith.

Columbus is partnering with the Greenbush Education Center to offer the Greenbush Virtual Academy to students. The academy is open to students K-12. Students would do school at home using a curriculum offered by Greenbush. But, they would still be considered a student in the school district they originally attend.

Smith says they plan to put an emphasis on in-person learning, but with the pandemic still raging he’s glad they’ll be able to offer another option.

“It is important because some students do need virtual because of health issues and so forth. And some students will thrive in that environment,” says Smith. “I think schools are moving more in that direction, where we’re kind of looking more and individual needs than we maybe did in the past.”

Bauer says that Girard is looking into the academy as an option on a “student by student basis depending on need.” The Uniontown School District is also offering the academy to students.

You can learn more about the academy here: https://virtualacademy.greenbush.org/student-portal/, and more about the new law here: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/documents/summary_hb_2134_2021