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Digital Instruction for Fall 2020
On July 20, 2020, CEO/Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks announced that Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) will open the 2020-21 school year on August 12 with all students receiving digital instruction. Although the district had planned to begin with both in-person and digital instruction, the current COVID-19 situation required a change in those plans.
“There is no replacement for face-to-face instruction, and that was our preferred model for next year,” said Superintendent Wilbanks. “With that in mind, we offered parents an option between in-person and digital instruction in order to be responsive to their wishes for their children. However, out of an abundance of concern for our students, families, and employees, we made a very difficult decision based on the increasing number of COVID-19 cases we are seeing in our county, as well as the concerns that have been expressed by our teachers, parents, and others in the community.”
GCPS leaders will continue to gather information from health officials and monitor the still-fluid COVID-19 situation in Gwinnett County. That information will help determine when the district can safely open for in-person instruction.
During the spring and summer, school system staff have worked diligently to improve the digital learning experience for students. Summer staff development has focused primarily on effective teaching in a digital environment. Content specialists created digital lessons and provided instructional resources to help teachers better serve students.
Digital instruction this fall will look very different than it did in the spring. Expectations for teachers and students will be consistent with those for in-person instruction. The digital school day will follow a daily schedule. School attendance will be expected and documented. And, students will receive grades and will take assessments to measure their learning.
Teachers will report to their schools to deliver their digital lessons, participate in staff development, and collaborate with their fellow teachers to make digital instruction more effective for their students. For some employees, reporting to school may be difficult for a number of reasons. Principals will work with the staff members at their school to address individual concerns and make accommodations where possible. Those who are allowed to work from home will be expected to come to the school periodically to work with other school staff and leaders.
With the move to 100% digital learning, GCPS leaders continue to address the challenges that we know exist in terms of student access to devices and reliable internet connections. The district will check out Chromebooks and internet hotspots to students, based on need, to ensure equitable access to quality digital learning.
“This is not the beginning of the school year we had hoped for; however, it was a possibility we planned for, knowing that keeping students and staff safe had to be a priority,” said Mr. Wilbanks. “We are confident we can do digital learning well, thanks to the quality teachers and leaders we have in this district, the comprehensive preparation over the last four months, and our steadfast commitment to do what’s best for Gwinnett students.”
Details for the 2020-21 school year will continue to be shared on the district website and in SchoolMessenger updates, including plans for a return to in-school instruction once that is possible. See below for an overview of digital learning in the fall.
Overview of Digital Learning in Gwinnett County Public Schools
What will digital learning look like in the Fall of 2020?
Teachers will provide both live (synchronous) and recorded (asynchronous) lessons and independent work. This means that students will be required to participate in digital instruction on a specific schedule with their teachers (synchronous learning), and also complete activities and assignments (asynchronous learning) on their own time to meet assignment deadlines.
- Students will receive quality instruction on all grade-level standards, learning the district’s Academic Knowledge and Skills (AKS) curriculum.
- Instruction and support will be provided by teachers and staff from the student’s local school.
- For the most part, the digital learning day will follow the same operational hours as the in-person school day.
- Students will access assignments through eCLASS C&I course pages, but teachers also may use digital resources such as Google Classroom, SAFARI Montage, etc.
- Students will attend synchronous (live) online sessions with teachers through Zoom, Google Meet, and/or Teams Meet.
- Schools and/or clusters will have standardized processes for where and how assignments are posted and accessed by students.
- Teachers will provide schedules detailing which lessons will be done in synchronous sessions. Synchronous sessions will be recorded. This will allow students and parents to review the sessions, and will make them available to students who occasionally cannot attend a live session.
- Schools will provide specific information to support students and parents around digital learning processes and protocols.
- Additional student and parent support resources will be available on the district web page and in the student portal.
- The updated GCPS Parent Portal, rolling out in August, will make it easier for parents to see assignments, including missing ones. It also will allow parents to access student information, including gradebook data, discipline, report cards, transcripts, calendars, and more.