Grand Island Public Schools
123 South Webb Road
Grand Island, NE 68802
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About 13% of GIPS students request Virtual School


Grand Island Public Schools is working through the planning for GIPS Virtual School for this fall. The district has 1,346 students signed up for the Virtual School.

“GIPS Virtual School is going to be a strong experience for our students,” said Dr. Tawana Grover, GIPS superintendent. “The COVID-19 situation has pushed us to be better in an area we already planned to explore for students. One pillar of our strategic plan is personalizing the education for all students. The GIPS Profile of a Graduate also encompasses online learning and virtual experiences as something all students should experience before leaving the district.”

Grover said offering parents voice and choice in how their students are educated this year was a crucial component to the district’s models for reopening.

“Our district came together to deliver personalized learning options for parents,” she said. “We are thankful for our parents’ help in the planning.”

Parent feedback played an important role in improving the student online learning experience.

“We heard from parents requesting consistency in expectations from teachers,” said Dr. Toni Palmer, GIPS Chief of Leading for Learning. “A set schedule will be provided for each student. Attendance expectations will be set and made clear to each student by each teacher.”

Another area GIPS improved is grading and accountability. GIPS will utilize grades to track academic progress. Students in Virtual School will receive normal grades and report cards.

“Teachers will be assigning work and providing feedback to support growth in learning,” Palmer said. “Student work will be graded in Virtual School as it is on campus to symbolize progress towards grade level standards. Grades are one of many ways GIPS teachers provide feedback, which is crucial to student growth.”

The 1,346 students signed up span all grades and all schools. Parents who chose Virtual School before the deadline on July 20 should receive a phone call from their principal or another district administrator. They will also receive an email confirming their student is enrolled in Virtual School.

“Our research showed us it could have been as many as 2,500 students,” Grover said. “To us, it didn’t matter in what the number was or who the students were; we will make adjustments and meet every student’s needs.”

The number represents 651 elementary students, 366 middle school students and 329 high school students. The main reasons given for selecting Virtual School were safety, medical concerns and mask usage.

“Whatever reason a parent had for selecting Virtual School, we will support their students,” Grover said. “Our staff is dedicated to providing a great school experience this year, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

The next big step for GIPS is working with staff to determine who will teach each class and what it will mean for the students and staff on campus. Staff also had the opportunity to give their preference for working on campus, online or either. The majority of staff selected either.

“The flexibility of our staff has made these options for parents available,” Grover said. “It shows how dedicated they are and that they will do what it takes to reach and teach our kids.”

Teachers will be assigned based on their preferences, recommendations, previous experience and the need of students, Palmer said.

“Virtual School students at the elementary level will have a teacher for every class,” Dr. Palmer said. “However, it may not be from their home school.”

For example, there are 125 fifth grade students signed up for Virtual School. This will require five teachers from across the 14 elementary schools. GIPS will group students closely with other students from their home school, even if they are placed with a teacher from a different school.

“Our Virtual School teachers will be working with one another, creating new professional learning communities and following the same curriculum expectations as teachers in school buildings,” Palmer said.

The Virtual School will also have an administrator and other GIPS staff to assist and support the needs of students. More information will be shared with parents as it is available.

If parents would like their child to return to the traditional classroom at the end of the first term, the district will help them through the process.

“To be able to ensure all students have teachers and schedules and classes, we needed parents to commit to the first term,” Palmer said. “We have to have the stability in numbers in staff and seats in classes, but more importantly we need to maintain a continuity of learning for each student.”

GIPS will continue to communicate directly with the parents of Virtual School students throughout the end of the summer and the school year.

“We understand there are still questions to be answered,” Grover said. “We also know this situation is fluid and appreciate everyone’s continued patience as we navigate through it together.”


THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TRADITIONAL AND VIRTUAL

There are two tracks for students: Traditional and Virtual.

  • Traditional: Students are on campus with restrictions.
  • Virtual: Experience requested by parents for students to utilize eLearning even when the district has students on campus.

Traditional students will change location based on the model GIPS is operating under. In Reimagined, all Traditional students will be on campus. In Select, certain programs will be on campus, all other students will be in eLearning. In Remote, all traditional students will be in eLearning. Students will primarily stay with their teachers and classmates as the district changes models.

The teacher and schedule a student starts with is what they will be in no matter which model the district is in. If the district moves to Remote, there will be little to no re-mixing of students, classes or teachers.

Virtual School students will be in eLearning with the same classmates and teachers regardless of the model the district is operating under.

Virtual School will consist of a GIPS teacher-led Zoom throughout the day for elementary students. Middle and high school will use a combination of this as well as distance learning with a student joining remotely to a live on-campus classroom. High school students may also have classes via Edmentum, an online resource Senior High has used for many years.

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Jack Sheard, Marketing & Communications
308-385-5900 Ext. 1127
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