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story.lead_photo.caption A task force at Fulton Public Schools is working on plans for remote learning. Photo by Olivia Garrett / Fulton Sun.

This spring, students ended their studies on computer screens.

When school returns, some might choose to remain online.

Since a 2018 law change, Missouri students have been able to enroll in online classes at the cost of their school district, so long as the district determines it is in the student's best educational interest. While some Fulton students have opted to add an online class to their course load over the years, few have switched to full-time virtual learning.

COVID-19 might change that.

Fulton Public Schools officials are working on plans for a safe return to in-person classes Aug. 26. Worked into recent communications with families is the acknowledgement that students can choose virtual instruction.

"It's challenging, but it could be a good fit for some," Superintendent Ty Crain said. "In a situation like this, some families might find that they're more comfortable with this option."

The district did an initial survey last month. Of those who participated, about 10 percent were undecided on in-person class.

"We've had some parents interested in it, but a lot of it's just been undecided right now," Crain said. "They want to know what school is going to look like. They want to know what the world is going to look like. We're not forcing them into making that decision right now."

The virtual learning does not rely on Fulton teachers — classes will be led through an outside vendor.

In Columbia, the school district is also offering in-person and virtual options. The difference is that Columbia Public Schools is big enough to have online learning taught by district teachers.

"We're not big enough to do that unless we have hundreds and hundreds of people that want to do online (schooling)," Crain said.

In the past, Fulton has turned to Launch, a program started by Springfield Public Schools and used in districts across the state, for virtual learning. Most recently, the district offered summer school classes through Launch.

"It's been kind of a hit or miss," he said. "Full-time virtual at an elementary level — it's hard to teach reading via virtual. But you do what you have to do and they can do it."

Crain said Launch will likely be the option provided this fall.

"That's a semester commitment," he said. "When you sign up for Launch, it's not one of those things you can jump in and out of. If you get enrolled in virtual school, you're in virtual school."

But there's a chance even students who opt for in-person classes might end up learning remotely, depending on how the COVID-19 pandemic develops.

"If we have to shutdown the district for some reason, because of COVID, then in that case, the kids that were in the classroom, they would get distance learning through us and through our teachers," Crain said.

This is one of the scenarios the district's COVID-19 instruction task force is planning for.

"They're working on, if we had to go to distance learning, what that's going to look like," Crain said. "How do we take our curriculum, utilizing and leveraging Google Classroom and other resources in order to do distance learning for our kids at home?"

Crain said he believes this period of blended learning might have a lasting impact on education.

"Even though a couple years ago the virtual piece came into play, there hadn't been a lot of people leveraging that," he said. "So I think that it could have an impact there. But I think it's going to change the way that we teach from the standpoint of how do we move back and forth between in-person and online and leveraging those tools out there to be able to effectively teach."

This time of change in education nationally is also a time of change for Crain, who stepped into the role of superintendent this month.

"My personal goals are to make sure that we continue some of the great things that we do," he said. "We're in some challenging times right now with the unknowns — and just making sure that we're prepared for whatever may come in our direction as best we can."

 

Fast facts

Superintendent: Ty Crain

District office contact: 2 Hornet Drive, Fulton, MO 65251; 573-590-8000; Fax: 573-590-8090; Website: https://www.fulton58.org/

School contacts

Fulton High School: Principal Kati Boland, [email protected]; 1 Hornet Drive, Fulton, MO 65251; 573-590-8100; Fax 573-590-8190

Fulton Middle School: Principal Beth Houf; [email protected]; 403 E. 10th St., Fulton MO 65251; 573-590-8200; Fax: 573-590-8290

Bartley Elementary: Principal T.J. Quick; [email protected]; Bus. Hwy. 54 S., Fulton, MO 65251; 573-590-8300; Fax: 573-590-8390

Bush Elemenary: Principal Holly Broadway; [email protected]; Wood St., Fulton, MO 65251; 573-590-840; Fax: 573-590-8490

McIntire Elementary: Principal Amy Crane; [email protected]; 706 Hickman Ave., Fulton, MO 65251; 573-590-8500; Fax: 573-590-8590

Registration

Registration for returning students is available online in the Parent Portal at https://sdm.sisk12.com/FL360x3/login. To enroll in Fulton Public Schools, parents should schedule an appointement by calling 573-590-8000 and be prepared to provide proof of guardianship and residency.

Calendar

First day of school: Aug. 26

Thanksgiving break: Nov. 25-27

Winter break: Dec.21-Jan. 4.

Spring break: March 29-31

Last day of school: May 27

Plans on the format of open houses have yet to be determined.

Other details

Average student-to-teacher ratio: 20

Last year enrollment: 2,249

Administrative changes: Ty Crain, superintendent; Chris Hubbuch, assistant superintendent; Tyler Davison, assistant principal Bush Elementary

Goal: "To keep students and staff safe and healthy while moving forward with the Board-approved curriculum. The plan is to resume in person on August 26 and to be prepared even if intermittent closings are required to continue effective instruction."

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