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Livingston Parish teachers who have been hired to work with students enrolled in the district’s new 100-percent virtual learning program due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic recently participated in a district workshop to become better acquainted with the new program’s platforms. Pictured in the ZOOM screenshot, clcokwise from top left, are Brandi Desselle, Superintendent Joe Murphy addressing teachers at the Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center, Carmen Spear, Paige Bullock and Rachel Gros.

LIVINGSTON — A new year will bring a new learning platform for many students in Livingston Parish.

Students in Livingston Parish who are enrolled in the 100% virtual learning option due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic will begin learning through a new academic, digital platform in the new semester, a news release said.

The new structure will include all classes being taught by teachers and facilitators who have been specifically hired to administer and manage the students’ virtual instruction.

“This new learning program addresses many of the concerns we have discovered in our efforts to find the best learning platform and structure for students in our virtual setting. We believe this new effort will greatly enhance the delivery of day-to-day instruction, give us a better measurement of each student’s progress, and provide us with greater tools to address any deficiencies that may be detected,” said Livingston Parish School Superintendent Joe Murphy.

Murphy said the new program will apply to those students in grades K-8 who currently enrolled in virtual-only learning — approximately 350 students parishwide. He said students cannot opt into the program unless they have a documented medical need.

Students and their parents will participate in an online ZOOM orientation the week of Jan. 4 to go over the new platform, meet the new teachers and facilitators, and review expectations and guidelines. Classes in the new platform will begin Jan. 11.

Kim Albin, principal of the Livingston Parish Literacy and Technology Center, who was tasked to work with curriculum supervisors and teachers to create the new program, said the district has hired 13 certified teachers and 13 virtual facilitators to administer instruction to the virtual-only students. All the selected instructors will receive a stipend to provide evening synchronous “live” lessons and one-on-one review sessions with their virtual students in addition to the digital platform that will guide instructional pacing.

“The teachers, paraprofessionals and certified instructors hired for this program were competitively selected from many applicants. These hires represent some of our best and technology-savvy instructors,” Albin said.

“While our virtual-only students will remain enrolled with their designated district schools, they will not have their daily instruction divided among teachers from that specific campus. Instead, they will have their classes managed by a single designated teacher and facilitator team who will guide them in all their study areas,” she said.

Murphy said having designated teachers and facilitators for the program will alleviate some of the extra work that has been placed on teachers. However, he said those on-campus students who must be temporarily quarantined due to positive COVID-19 cases or close contacts will continue to receive virtual instruction from their regular teachers.

Albin said all students will receive their daily classwork through learning platforms provided by Edmentum, a national online course provider. Students in grades K-5 will use the Calvert platform, which is managed by the Genius student information system. Students in grades 6-8 will utilize the Courseware platform, which is managed through the Clever student information system. Both platforms are completely web-based, allowing students to access their program from any computer with an internet connection and a standard web browser.

Albin said unit activity results are recorded for teacher review, and each curriculum offering includes pretests, tutorials, practice activities, discussion posts, mastery tests and post-tests.

“Students will complete their assignments during the day through these platforms, noting any issues or questions they may have for the teacher or facilitator. The teacher will offer ‘office hours’ after the normal school day to assist students with these questions. The teachers can facilitate through a one-on-one Zoom session with the student, or maybe an email or phone call, or they can have a ‘live’ lesson for the whole class to expound on the class material or address common questions,” Albin explained.

She said the curriculum for each class will adhere to the same standards being taught. Students will be offered enrichment classes in addition to their core curriculum of English/language arts, math, science, and social studies. Students in grades 6-8 who are enrolled in high school credit courses also will be able to continue their instruction in those subject areas.

“By having a single instructional team and the same online learning platform across the curriculum for each student, we believe we will cut down on the confusion and inconsistencies in instructional practices that too often can create student deficiencies and gaps in learning,” Albin said.

Albin said the new program will not be used for high school students who are enrolled as 100% virtual learners because of the diversity and breadth of courses needed for those students. She said those students will continue to learn through their existing platforms and with the teachers at their designated district school.

“This program is not easier, nor is it harder. It is different,” Albin said, “It will allow us to better monitor and evaluate the learning progress of our virtual-only students and give us an improved way to support our students with enrichment or remediation as needed.”

Murphy added the district is committed to using the new program through May, and in the district’s practice, it will be fully evaluated for improvements or changes to further refine the virtual learning process for the 2021-2022 school year.