Akron Public Schools Staggers Start To Virtual Learning

Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James in 2017
Akron Public Schools Superintendent David James in 2017 [Ashton Marra / ideastream]

Akron Public Schools officially began online classes Wednesday, welcoming the district’s eighth, ninth, and 12th graders. Students from other grades will return throughout the week, with the youngest grades returning Monday. Superintendent David James said the district’s staggered start will allow for staff and students to do some orientation.

“I think a lot of our teachers really want to know where everyone’s at,” said James. “So, there will probably be more work around just getting an idea of where students are, making sure they’re all ready for the online classroom, walking them through some things.”

Technology distribution wasn't an issue for Akron this fall. Prior to the pandemic, the district had already distributed Chromebooks and other tech devices to students making them “one to one.” James added, “most” of the district’s 21,000 students have internet access. The district bought a total of 1000 hotspots and had passed out roughly 650 by Tuesday.

“We were very clear if people didn't have internet access, to contact our engagement center,” said James, “We followed up with some people who say, well, while they didn't have a hotspot or internet access, they had access to the internet at their grandparents’ house, which is where they were going on a daily basis while parents worked or something.”

In-person appointments are being conducted with each kindergartener and their family, in part, to give the child their Chromebook and to introduce parents to the online portal. Health screenings will also be conducted in-person.

“We administer health tests with our partners at Akron Children’s, because they provide all of our school nurses. There's a hearing test and an eye test,” said James. “And then there's an entering kindergarten assessment that we'll be doing as well.”

Pre-k, kindergarteners and first graders start online learning Monday, the last group in the district's staggered start process.

The district will continue providing free meals to all children in need in the region, said James, as a continuation of a community-wide program. The district estimates that more than 700,000 meals have been given to students and others since last spring, when Governor Mike DeWine ordered all schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

During his Tuesday briefing, the governor said children who qualify for free or reduced-cost meals will be receiving Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) cards to purchase food. The cards also had been sent out in the spring to cover meal costs when schools were closed due to the pandemic.

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