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Some snow days to become e-learning days at NACS

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) — Teachers and staff at Northwest Allen County Schools are getting everything ready to welcome students back to class on Wednesday.

The district is instituting a big change this year as it slowly rolls out e-learning days in place of some snow days.

IT staff at Northwest Allen County Schools are in all the buildings, getting the technology cleaned and ready for students to return to class.

“Right now we’re putting new students into them that are coming in at the last minute, taking withdrawal students out. We’re sorting, we’re cleaning, we’re just preparing everything to have the best start for school,” says NACS computer technician Pat Thurber.

The district distributes 7500 devices like tablets and laptops for students, plus teachers and staff.

Bar codes on every device and matching power cords are scanned to match with a student for the year, and then full bins are delivered to classrooms.

Northwest Allen has assigned students electronic devices for several years now, but this is the first year that it will implement a few e-learning days in place of some snow days.

“We have considered it over the years but didn’t want to implement because we feel there’s really no replacement for teacher interaction,” says district spokeswoman Lizette Downey.

However, Northwest Allen administrators reached out to a focus group of parents to see what they wanted, and were told they wanted some e-learning days, where students do classwork on their devices at home instead of having a typical snow day that would have to be made up at the end of the year.

But the district won’t replace every snow day with e-learning days.

“We do recognize that after you get more than two days of e-learning it starts to get hard to come up with good lesson plans that are effective that don’t require some human interaction with them,” Downey says.

Tech specialist Jarred Keith knows his duties may very well shift on those e-learning days.

“So far the day to day is help kids on a hardware issue or sometimes you have to help them connect to the internet at home. But when it moves into e-learning, it will be, I assume, more of the home connection, making sure everything works there, and more specifically, how the site works,” he says.

“We believe it’s going to be useful to help prevent moving graduation day or potentially the last day of school. So if we can avoid that then that certainly makes a lot of sense,” Downey says.

The overall goal is to ensure that the school year ends on time.

Northwest Allen County School leaders plan to have a maximum of one e-learning day in the first semester, and up to three during the second semester with regular snow days in between.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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