As the Salida School District prepares to open for in-person instruction this fall, an online option is also being rolled out for families who, for health or other reasons, are not comfortable with students returning to school.

District director of academic affairs Amy Ward introduced the Salida Online Program (SOP) the district partnership with Colorado Digital Learning Solutions (CDLS) to provide online instruction for Salida students who want it.

The district had applied to Colorado Department of Education earlier in the summer for its own independent online school, but a delay in response from the Colorado Department of Education led Salida to pursue another option, although a district run online school is still a goal for the future.

In an online meeting with families, Ward outlined the plan for the online option and answered questions.

The online option would be open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Students would still be registered at their home school, but would receive instruction online supplemented with contact with local teachers.

Salida school board approved the creation of 5 positions within the district that would work with online students to provide support. Three of those teachers will co-teach with CDLS teachers at the elementary (kindergarten-sixth grade in Colorado) level in kindergarten through second grade, third and fourth grade and  fifth and sixth grade groupings. 

For older students (seventh-12th grade) in middle school and high school, those teachers will serve as learning coaches to provide local support and a local contact point.

For those students who opt for online instruction, the district is asking for a semester-long commitment. At the end of that semester, it will be possible to switch back to in-person instruction if desired.

Ward said this is to prevent “holes in learning” due to the differences in curriculum and pacing between the online and in-person instructional programs.

“To have students bounce back and forth between the online program and face-to-face program is not what is the best for the students or the teachers,” she said.

Ward said at the elementary level however, Longfellow Elementary School principal Chuck McKenna is hoping to find a way to allow younger students the chance to make that transition earlier if the online option is not working for a student.

With the online option each student will be issued a district device. The district recently approved the purchase of new technology to provide one-to-one capacity for technology as well as the purchase of 50 hotspot sites from T-Mobile and AT&T to provide better connectivity in the district area.

For kindergarten and first grade, the device would be an iPad. Second grade and older students will be issued a Chromebook.

At this time it is expected each child in a family would be issued their own device for instruction Ward said.

The enrollment window for the SOP will allow for student enrollment through the first two weeks of school, but once the enrollment window closes the semester-long commitment begins.

A switch could be made in January with second semester if desired.

Ward said the CDLS program is not scheduled to start until Aug. 26. In-person school is scheduled to start Aug. 19. 

Ward said Salida teachers assigned to the online school will begin making connections with online students starting Aug. 19. They will also be working to review the system that students will be using.

For high school students, the pacing of classes between the online option and the new block scheduling being implemented this year might make it difficult to switch from one to the other.

However, Ward said, the district is reaching out to CDLS to see if a more parallel schedule can be worked out.

For older online students, electives such as art and foreign language are available online as well as other electives that may not be offered at Salida high School.

Students will also be able to take advanced placement courses as well as continue to take advantage of  concurrent enrollment opportunities with Colorado Mountain College, the same as in-person students.

Ward said those students needing special services such as occupational, physical or speech therapy would still receive those services remotely when possible or on a one-on-one in-person basis if necessary. 

Ward said special education case managers would remain the same for students opting for online instruction and will facilitate meetings and collaborate with CDLS and SOP teachers to provide accommodations and enrichment as needed. 

Ward has posted a set of frequently asked questions with answers on the salidaschool.org website and can be contacted at award@salidaschools.org for those with further questions.

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