With the Public School System gearing up to implement a mix of online learning and classroom instruction for the upcoming school year, it has identified 6,000 families that need internet connection in order for students to participate in the “new normal” approach to education.
Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada said that PSS has identified 6,000 families with no internet connection at home. He assured, though, that, when the time comes when the new school year begins, PSS will be equipped to support students who lack the technology resources at home. He said in a previous interview that PSS is prepared with its WiFi on Wheels program, and is partnering with IT&E and Docomo Pacific to provide internet connection at an affordable price. WiFi on Wheels involves installing internet routers in PSS school buses and parking these buses in specific sites throughout the CNMI where students can go to and connect to the internet while inside their parents’ or guardian’s vehicle.
PSS plans to resume classes on Sept. 8.
When schools reopen, PSS will implement a hybrid approach, meaning a combined remote and face-to-face instruction, for over 10,000 students. “This will ensure optimum safety while student learning continues as the CNMI maintains its fight against the spread of COVID-19,” Ada said in a presentation during a recent Board of Education meeting.
Ada said the hybrid approach is designed to diminish the PSS students’ vulnerability to COVID-19 exposure by providing combined remote, or online, and face-to-face learning instructions. The percentage of each type of instruction will vary depending on the COVID-19 condition in the CNMI.
For students who will avail of face-to-face instruction, school buses will continue to provide transportation with social distancing measures in place. Parents are encouraged to regularly monitor their children’s health. If feeling unwell, children should stay home.
To ensure everyone’s safety, there will be regular temperature screening for all students and staff, Ada said, adding that students with a temperature of 100.3F and above will not be allowed to board the bus or attend school.
As for the Child Nutrition Program, Ada said all students will continue to receive meal services whether they attend classes remotely or onsite.
PSS will use the Blackboard application as its learning management system with this new hybrid approach and teachers will undergo training in August to prepare their virtual classrooms using the web-based learning tool.
PSS also aims to establish adequate infrastructure and protocols to minimize vulnerability and ensure the safety of all staff and students, Ada added.
He said schools will also emphasize social emotional learning because students need a clear understanding of what is happening during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Ada said PSS wants to help students manage their stress and relationships to increase their ability to learn.
Instruction will also focus on priority standards and school work to minimize instructional loss and ensure continued learning, said Ada.