CORVALLIS — Corvallis School leaders are embarking on a bold plan to be prepared for whatever might happen to take kids out of class in the future after wrestling with the challenges of "remote learning" to end the school year.
Like districts across Montana, Corvallis found itself with the abrupt end to classroom education when the coronavirus came crashing in back in March. Staff rallied, using tech, and good old fashioned handouts to keep the learning going.
But the experience was a wake-up call and now, the Corvallis School District is taking the unprecedented step of assigning Chromebooks to every individual student from fourth through twelfth grade.
"And so that opens more doors to the continuity and consistency that students can have as far as accessing work, doing work, submitting work, what staff can provide students when it comes down to content instruction and how that's rolled out," said Corvallis School Superintendent Tim Johnson.
"The management and accountability that we have, where we know that this student has this device is also going to be an important piece too," he added.
Unlike many smaller districts, Corvallis had a running start and was already implementing more devices and online learning last fall. Now, armed with the federal CARES Act money, the district can fill in the gaps.
"The funding helped. I think it was forcing the issue for our school district, in particular, to deal with the remote learning," Johnson told MTN News.
Those gaps include households where there might not be tablets, or even phones, for students to use. Or where several kids have to compete for learning screen time.
"We found that with the devices that we had available at the time, in the spring, was not totally adequate for all the different scenarios including a lot of siblings in the same home," Johnson said.
He added that having this kind of technology available for individual students is smart, not only because of the pandemic but also if students were to miss class for extended periods for any other reasons."
A classic scenario could be a big storm, where getting to school isn't safe for days, or even just where life makes learning tough to reach class.
"And the need for more devices actually covers more scenarios for us than just the COVID-19. I think it's something that, when you look at what devices can provide for kids that are just ill for a couple of days, on vacation, certainly a COVID-19 issue that pops up, there's a lot of good reason for the continuity of education to occur," Johnson explained.
He told MTN News that by deploying district-owned devices, the school can also make sure they are secure for children to use, and only loaded with appropriate apps and software for learning.