The Kern County Superintendent of Schools announced it is partnering with Canvas, a online learning platform, to provide continued learning during the temporary school closure.
With the Governor of California announcing Wednesday schools will remain closed until next year, the online platform couldn’t come at a better time, said Robert Meszaros, the communications director for KCSOS. Canvas is being made available to any Kern County school district that would like to use the platform at no-cost through June 30, 2020. Fifteen local school districts have already told KCSOS they will join the platform.
“Based on the Governor’s remarks today, it is clear that school districts will continue education for the remainder of the school year through distance learning, only, and schools will remain physically closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year,” said Meszaros. “Kern County’s 47 school districts and local and state partners are working diligently to continue to implement distance learning and continued nutrition services for students.”
Since KCSOS announced the school closures in response to COVID-19, an Instructional Services team has been working on creating an “online school” environment and customizing “virtual classrooms” using Canvas, complete with standards-based curriculum in English Language Arts and Math for grades TK – 12, according to a news release.
KCSOS has put together lessons for local teachers to use; however, Canvas allows local districts and teachers to adjust these lessons and customize them to their school’s needs.
“We wanted to make sure anything that we created and provided to teachers is completely customizable not only to meet the need of that teacher but to ensure that teacher can meet the needs of their students in their particular classroom,” said Krista Herrera, an administrator with KCSOS, in an online media briefing Wednesday afternoon.
English Language Development, Science, History, and Social-Emotional Learning lessons are also in the works.Canvas allows grade-level content to be pushed out to students and includes video lessons, learning activities, daily assignments, online quizzes, and much more.
Teachers also have the ability to present lessons using Canvas’ video conferencing tool so that students and classmates can interact in real time.
“We do not have the luxury of time at the moment, so our team has been working around the clock to create a turn-key solution for teachers that can quickly be utilized to mitigate any negative impact on our students’ educational progress,” said Lisa Gilbert, Deputy Superintendent of Instructional Services at KCSOS.
Not every school district in Kern County is required to use this online platform. Some districts are using platforms, such as Google Classrooms, instead. Greenfield Union, Fairfax, Arvin, Edison, Buttonwillow, Lost Hills, Tehachapi, and Lakeside school districts are among 15 districts that have agreed to use Canvas.
“Just like everyone else, we were not prepared for a school closure and had not trained our teachers on what distance learning looks like,” said Sarah Dawson, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum for the Greenfield Union School District. “By using Canvas, our teachers have weeks of lessons laid out for them, they are able to communicate with their students and families, along with their grade/department teams within the platform. It is a win-win for everyone.”
KCSOS hopes to roll out the platform on April 13, after Spring Break, but first it is focusing on getting devices into the hands of the students and creating Canvas training for teachers, parents and students. Gilbert says KCSOS hopes to have the training videos uploaded by the end of this week.
With the news of school being close through the end of the year, KCSOS officials said they are keeping Canvas in mind if they need it for summer school and for the fall.
“We really have tried to take a longer-term approach to this work,” Gilbert said. “We realize we are currently in a crisis mode but by providing our students and staff these opportunities to learn about online learning and how to utilize it is an effective way and a necessary skill set.”
It is currently unknown how teachers will ensure students are keeping up with their work on Canvas. KCSOS said they are still working through such questions.