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Schools measure online access

News Photo by Meakalia Previch-Liu Gracie Cordes, a senior at Alpena High School, takes time to go rollerblading and get fresh air at Duck Park on Monday afternoon.

ALPENA — Alpena Public Schools is working to have both digital and paper classwork accessible to students by the last week of April.

For what’s left of the school year, districts are implementing online and other forms of distance learning after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on April 2 suspended face-to-face learning at K-12 schools to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Schools are required to come up with a plan by April 28 for providing education. Kids who lack internet access must have another way of earning credit.

School officials this week began measuring families’ access to the internet to figure out which kids could begin online learning and which might need help to do so or need another way to get their work done.

One woman in Presque Isle County has COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, health officials said Monday. Zero cases have been reported in Alpena, Montmorency, or Alcona counties as the statewide tally surged past 17,000 cases, with more than 700 deaths.

APS conducted a phone survey Monday evening with four yes-or-no questions about family internet and technology access. APS Superintendent John VanWagoner said the internet is a great way to deliver education, but some families have no ability to get online.

“This survey will give us some generalities of where things fall, so it will be a base for us to work on for the next week or two when trying to get things up and running, especially for the kids that do have the ability to get online,” he said. “We’ll also be making sure we have the proper amount of stuff for paper, pencil, and book activities for kids equally at the same time.”

Many schools in Northeast Michigan are fine-tuning plans for the most effective ways to work with students from a distance.

For example, families of Pied Piper School, a school for special needs students operated by the Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District, were all contacted via phone last week to assess their students’ internet access and other needs.

“At Pied Piper, we need to be mindful that it takes additional levels of creativity in order to help support not just the students, but the parents in supporting the students,” ESD Superintendent Scott Reynolds said. “Our students with their individual special needs are going to require some additional creativity to best support them. For some of our students, paper and pencil may not be an adequate tool for them to continue their learning.”

Onaway Area Community Schools asked parents to email Marty Mix, the secondary principal and athletic director, or Onna Leach, athletic director secretary, to notify them whether their family has internet access or not. The district’s goal is to have lessons for the students to begin as early as Monday.

Alcona Community Schools surveyed its 700 students about internet access and found about 50% of students have access to online learning, 25% to 30% could access some internet, and 20% have no internet, Superintendent Dan O’Connor said.

The district will call families again this week to survey what more they could do to support them from home.

Meakalia Previch-Liu can be reached at 989-358-5680 or mprevich-liu@thealpenanews.com.

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