This fall, Ypsilanti Community Schools (YCS) will change the structure of how students receive their education in the Ypsilanti region by offering a new distance learning program throughout the year.
Covid-19 has made routine changes for students and their families when it comes to attending school. However, an option where parents can optionally choose their child to take distance education all year round had not been an option at JEC. Now there is an option this fall with the new “Ypsilanti Community Connected Schools” program.
The class is scheduled to start at 8 a.m. for students and will include live instruction on Zoom. Students will attend morning meetings, small group meetings for specific subjects like ELA (English Language Arts) and Mathematics, two electives, breaks and offline activities such as the reading and time to work on a thematic project that will be presented at the start of each term. Students in the program will also have the opportunity to meet their classes in person at a new brick and mortar building at 1076 Ecorse Road in Ypsilanti Township.
The new program will also always include other in-person activities like field trips and community service projects with local businesses.
The start of the new program
For Kier Ingraham, e-learning administrator, deputy director of the YCS TK-8 e-learning program and key developer of the Ypsilanti community connected schools, it was very important to include ways to encourage the social interaction with students online and in person. As a former math and computer science teacher, Ingraham faced challenges head-on and looked forward to providing students with a unique opportunity to learn during the pandemic. Later, she asked the district to run the program online, and the district seized the chance.
The new program began in August 2020 when the district decided that K-8 classes would continue with the online format. It was then that Ingraham and other staff members were invited to be part of the program. Throughout the previous school year, staff at the online program led by Ingraham would hold meetings to discuss what students and families needed after the pandemic, leading them to be classified as a learning program at distance because of the amount of live instruction they included in the curriculum.
The program was formatted not only by feedback from parents and students, but also from teachers who came to the meetings with suggestions on what they had tried for their students and how it worked. Ingraham is optimistic about the future of the program and how it will bring students closer to their communities.
âLater, I hope it will increase the joy of learning,â Ingraham said. âMay the students find this joy through the projects, through the community. They will understand that they can learn anywhere and not just at school. But this school, whether they go back to a traditional classroom at some point or once in college, they know how to acquire these skills to learn, but they really have the joy that they are looking to learn.
For some teachers, distance learning has led to positive results
Ms. Cindy Smith has been an educator with YCS for two years and, from an educator’s perspective, provided valuable feedback when the administration began to consider offering a permanent year-round program. Even before the pandemic, Smith found that technology was already having a positive impact in the classroom.
Smith discovered that using online programs like Ed-Puzzle, Kahoot! and Quizlet not only helped students progress in their learning skills, but also helped them assess which students needed more help or were ready to move on. For Smith, there were more options online to suit the needs of different students than she found when teaching in a traditional classroom.
Smith was heavily involved in the development of the program, including creating the logo, reviewing the new brick and mortar building to use, and also attending social ice creams where parents and students were able to ask questions about the new program. Based on enrollment numbers, Smith is set to teach college math in the program this fall.
Smith is hopeful that students can take advantage of the option as it will allow them to learn wherever they go and may provide them with more time with their family. For some students, this will help them progress further and continue to progress in difficult subjects. Smith herself hopes the program will help ease the relationships she has not only with students but also with parents.
âI look forward to the student-parent-teacher relationships that will grow stronger as we progress through this program and the success of the students themselves as they feel and see that they can still be a part of. a connected community. “said Smith.
For Kelly Andrews, who has taught at YCS for four years and who may be teaching a Kindergarten / Grade 1 class this fall depending on enrollment, also found that online teaching was effective, despite the fact that it was an initial struggle for many people. school districts to adapt to. Like Smith, Andrews also saw improvements in the online format that she hadn’t seen in the traditional classroom, including better attendance and fewer interruptions.
She also noted that the students additionally received instruction in small groups, where they received instruction alongside a small group of other classmates.
âI taught entirely online last year,â Andrews said. âI found that my fully online community was working very hard and growing tremendously with academicsâ¦ When the district announced that it wanted to continue this program online, I was totally on board. This offers another option for parents, and after seeing how effective this has been over the past year, I think this is a very positive addition to our district. ”
Andrews also argued that during a pandemic, teachers are working harder than ever to help their students. She is proud of YCS and their dedication to the education and future success of their students, recognizing their leadership and strong beliefs towards teachers, students and the community.
For other teachers, distance learning was not easy at first
In comparison, Cantrese Reeves, who taught college ELA for four years at YCS, had minimal knowledge of technology, but found that when technology was incorporated into lesson plans, it was was easier. For her personally, teaching during the pandemic had taken her out of her comfort zone when she needed to use technology more than ever.
Despite this, Reeves found that the pandemic had improved educators. Not only did Reeves learn a new way of teaching, but she also found that students were also adapting to the online format and were preserved despite the pandemic.
âI just think we were able to successfully go through a year where students were still able to accomplish what they needed to accomplish in order to be successful despite the fact that we were going through a pandemic,â Reeves said. âI even had students learning in hospital rooms because they were sick, but they didn’t want to miss it. And that’s really encouraging for me, and I hope other students will be motivated to overcome these obstacles as well.
Reeves was excited about the program’s new opportunity, as it would be an additional option for students who might not thrive in a traditional classroom. Helping to support the new program, Reeves focused on recognizing needs and then meeting them, helping Ingraham in any way he could. Through this, Reeves helped set up the ice cream social events, spread awareness of the program, help set up the building, and work with the district to set up the ELA program with others. teachers for pre-K-12.
Reeves hopes that students can benefit from the program not only by having the opportunity to take extracurricular activities at the physical location, but also by having flexibility in their schedules and being comfortable taking their courses remotely at the House.
Gail Sykes is a Young Fives educator for YCS, and at the start of the pandemic, she was unsure of the online format initially due to her love for personal relationships developed in the traditional classroom. As Sykes continued to teach online, these personal relationships seemed to develop more than before in student homes.
When it comes to personalization, Sykes noted how teaching in small groups has helped his students like Andrews has. Sykes also pointed out that with the class being taught online, it was brought to student homes. Sykes then came not only to help teach the students, but she also helped her families with personal matters, including helping families access food, personal supplies, providing mental health support and , for some families, by supporting them and a loved one through a terminal. disease.
âI had parent meetings and it was a time when only me and the parents met online in Zoom,â said Sykes. âAnd over time, they deepened what I could do to help them better help them. And sometimes they weren’t academics, sometimes I had to drop off food on their porch. They needed help with that, you know? They needed personal supplies to be dropped off. They needed mental health support. I could reach out and do that, and we could have these conversations … So it didn’t just help the kid, but the whole family.
It was these experiences that allowed Sykes to realize the potential of online learning and why she changed her mind about whether she would teach online.
Depending on the enrollment, Sykes could be teaching Young Fives students, or a split class from Young Fives and Kindergarten. Sykes supports how program staff keep their walls transparent about this, focusing more on students’ academic needs in their assessments and ensuring that this reflects the configuration of staff members who will be teaching at what levels.
For the fall, Sykes hopes the program will continue to help develop student-teacher-parent-community relationships, but that it will help develop students as individuals.
To learn more about the program and upcoming events on it, such as Ice Cream, visit YCS TK-8 e-learning program page.