More than one quarter of Giles County families have chosen not to send their students back to school in person this fall due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These students will instead exclusively participate in a remote learning program offered by the Giles County School System. This same platform will be utilized in the event of school closures for those students enrolled to attend school in-person.

The leadership team at the district office chose SchoolsPLP as the virtual learning platform for the 2020-21 academic year. According to Director of Schools Dr. Vickie Beard, this system was chosen, in part, because “it provides access starting at Pre-K all the way through grade 12, which not all of the platforms did. That early education is very important to us.”

The virtual learning program will operate at no cost to families, and students will be provided with a Chromebook to complete their schoolwork. The district is not offering assistance with internet access, but has published a list of free community Wi-Fi locations which is linked on the school board website.

Students will be enrolled in classes taught by Giles County educators, in classes alongside their peers attending in person. The Giles County School Board feels that this will ease the transition for students when returning to the classroom as well as help remote students feel more connected to the school, according Beard.

Educators will begin training on the platform during their in-service days at the end of this month. Parents and Students will be on-boarded during the first week of school, beginning Aug. 3. Classes will commence officially Aug. 10.

Virtual lessons may include videos uploaded to Google Classroom, Zoom meetings and online coursework on the virtual platform. A full schedule of classes will be offered. Students are expected to be logged in a minimum of 3.5 hours a day and complete additional work offline.

According to Tennessee Department of Education guidelines, “A certain portion of the day has to be direct instruction,” Beard said.

This means synchronous (real-time) discussions or question-and-answer with the instructor and other students. These interactions are especially important for the youngest grades. The scheduling of these live interactions are at the discretion of the individual teacher.

Educational content will also be delivered through the virtual platform for the students to complete independently (or with parental help), and will be evaluated by the teacher daily.

Virtual learning students who are enrolled in sports, extracurricular activities and CTE courses will be able to participate in those on campus, if they are available. Students enrolled in classes at Martin Methodist College or TCAT-Pulaski may still attend those classes at the discretion of the post-secondary institution.

Bulk lunches will be provided for virtual learning students on Wednesdays at their respective schools. Students must be present to receive the meals.

The deadline for registering for virtual learning was July 20, but additional enrollments will be permitted as medically indicated. The Board has established a grace period through Aug. 14 for families to switch between educational modalities. Additional enrollment modifications can be made after each nine-week grading period.

Beard emphasized that remote learning students are still very much a part of the school community.

“You should be hearing from our schools, whether it’s a counselor or the staff in the cafeteria,” she said. “We want our remote learners to feel a part of the school.”

Key Takeaways For All Students

• The first week of school will be a phase-in/training week to transition into the 2020-21 school year. Regular schedules will begin Aug. 10 for virtual and in-person students.

• All students may participate in athletics, CTE courses and extracurricular activities as they are made available.

• Accommodations for students with IEP, 504 plans or other special educational needs will be made.

Brick and Mortar Learning

• The weekly schedule will be full days Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, with either half days or all virtual learning from home on Wednesdays, depending on the county-wide levels of COVID-19 cases through at least Fall break.

• All students in a classroom could be sent home to participate in virtual learning for 10 days if a classmate tests positive for COVID-19.

• If a student or faculty member tests positive for COVID-19 and was exposed to members of multiple classrooms, the whole school may close for two-three days for deep cleaning and contact tracing.

• Masks are not required but are encouraged.

Virtual Learning

•  Students will be provided with a Chromebook to participate.

• SchoolsPLP is the platform the County chose for virtual learning.

• Virtual learning students will be in a class with students attending in person.

• Virtual lessons may include videos uploaded to Google Classroom, Zoom meetings and online coursework on the virtual platform.

• Students are required to be logged in for 3.5 hours a day.

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