The Public School System has begun preparations for their transition to 100% remote learning once they open in September.
According to Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada, with PSS officially set to open in September with COVID-19 still a major threat to students and staff, PSS is now focusing all its efforts on preparing for the first school year that will be 100% online.
“We’re preparing our plans. The initial plan was face-to-face learning and some remote learning but, with the virus, we’re not 100% safe. In the fall, we’re pursing 100% distance education or we’re going to attempt 100% so teachers need to be trained. We will officially open in September,” he said.
However, with PSS pursuing remote learning, Ada said the administration will cut back on the hiring of teachers.
“We are not hiring all the teachers. We’re looking at our staffing pattern. We’re looking at the number of teachers that we need. Principals are looking at the staffing pattern and at enrollment. Come August and we see a surge of enrollment, we may need to hire [more] teachers. Different schools have different needs. It depends on the population and the village,” he said.
The first phase of the transition to remote learning, Ada said, is securing internet connection for students who don’t have access at home.
“All of our efforts are really [geared toward the transition] to remote learning. So first is the WiFi on Wheels program to make sure that the community has access to internet, to make sure there are equipment and supplies for those communities,” he said.
Wifi on Wheels, or WOW, means equipping school buses with WiFi routers and deploying them to specific areas on the islands where students can go to and connect to the internet. The students will be in cars with their parents, in compliance with social distancing rules. This means the students will be using their own web-enabled gadgets to connect to the internet.
As part of the phase to secure internet connection for families who don’t have it, PSS is also working on getting MiFi vouchers. This refers to a wireless router that acts as mobile WiFi hotspot.
“The second attempt is the MiFi. We’re doing a survey on students who don’t have internet at home and I’m working with IT&E and Docomo regarding vouchers for families who need it. That will launch in September,” he said.
PSS is also working on incorporating social and emotional training sessions through remote learning for student.