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SACS to allow Internet schooling

Homestead students can learn from home on staff, snow days

– Southwest Allen County Schools students will have the opportunity to attend school from home – through online classes – during staff training days and snow days this year.

The school board approved the eLearning flex days Tuesday, with Superintendent Phillip Downs saying he is extremely excited about the innovative program, calling it “the best kind of professional development you can have.”

Southwest Allen is one of only a dozen districts in the state approved by the Indiana Department of Education to use eLearning for staff in-service and snow days.

The initial program for eLearning in-service days will be used at the high school level only.

Homestead High School will have staff in-service days on Sept. 23, Oct. 21, Nov. 19 and Dec. 11.

During in-service days, high school students will log in from home using their school-issued computers and get daily assignments through a software program called My Big Campus.

School staff will be in training in the morning but will be available from noon to 3 p.m. to answer student questions, through My Big Campus, voice or video calling or emails.

The move to using at-home technology will save the district $38,600 because substitute teachers will not be needed during teachers’ in-service days, as was the practice in the past, Downs said.

“This will save the general fund a considerable amount of money,” he said.

Last winter, all SACS students used eLearning courses after school and on the weekends to make up for five missed days.

But on the sixth snow day, March 12, students logged in for their daily lessons and studied and attended classes from home in real time, said Park Ginder, principal of Homestead High School.

“We learned a lot about ourselves and our community and how to improve the delivery of electronic content to our students and families,” Ginder said.

Classroom assistants, cafeteria staff and bus drivers will not be affected, Ginder said.

“The drivers will run their regular routes to pick up the elementary and middle school students while the high school assistants and cafeteria staff will be receiving related in-service training,” he said.

A Southwest Allen survey showed that 90 percent of the students have access to Internet at home, and all students have access through other resources such as neighbors, restaurants or friends.