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School Board discusses issues related to Canvas

Members of the Stanly County School Board had questions Tuesday night for staff members in terms of the first few weeks of school.

Chairman Melvin Poole asked about teachers contacting board members regarding difficulties getting courses into the Canvas learning management system.

Dr. Amy Blake-Lewis, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Stanly County Schools (SCS), said the technology department has offered Canvas training and had on-site curriculum coaches and media specialists.

The board also decided to have a specially called meeting to discuss the ideas and suggestions made by teachers in a recent online survey (see related story https://www.thesnaponline.com/2020/09/02/stanly-school-board-hears-results-of-teacher-survey/ ).

Board member Glenda Gibson, participating via phone, expressed concerns for teachers regarding the amount of time spent on Canvas and how much planning time teachers have now. She notes middle school teachers are teaching two or more subjects with less planning time.

Interim Superintendent Vicki Calvert cited the survey which said 36 percent spend one to 10 hours uploading, 37 percent spend 10-20 hours and 26 percent more than 20 hours.

She further said with the additional time, the A-B schedule, which is used at the middle school with students learning in person every other week, may need to be looked at to help teachers touch base with students.

Calvert said principals have met in the first few weeks to possibly make adjustments to schedules.

Board member Anthony Graves said he would ask SCS to contact teachers regarding their recommendations and ensure the board receives those communications. He said he did not want any subgroup to not have their concerns included.

Board member Patty Crump asked if SCS had a hotline for parents to call regarding Canvas questions. Shawn Britt, head of the SCS technology department, said parents ordinarily give questions to teachers who have resources available.

Graves recommended communicating with the federal Department of Education for more technical resources, but locally it’s a staffing issue since tech staff has all the other normal issues, upgrades and updates along with additional tech help requests.

Vice Chairman Ryan McIntyre asked how SCS is following up with students who are not attending virtual classes or completing assignments.

Blake-Lewis said teachers try to reach out twice to students by phone or email first, then parents. The next level is referred to the school support team which could be a nurse, social worker or counselor, she said, to discover if it’s internet access or other issues.

SCS also distributed 99 remote hot spots to students without internet access who chose remote learning. Blake-Lewis said the hotspots do not rotate to others because they mostly went to full remote-learning students.

Gibson would like to hear what would make things more manageable for teachers.

Crump said she would like to look at dwindling class sizes at the high school level, asking if the board could talk about bringing high school kids in more than every third week as the schedule is currently.

Board member Jeff Chance said an issue with Canvas may also be parents do not understand the work students are asked to do and inputting work into Canvas as well.

Blake-Lewis said Canvas was chosen as one system for everyone to use, noting parents of multiple students were using multiple systems to input student’s work at the start of remote learning in March. Input from parents over the summer helped SCS decide to switch to Canvas exclusively.

Poole asked how students could contact teachers directly. Britt said Canvas has a chatbox and also has a function where students can communicate with each other, but teachers can monitor the conversation.

Britt said SCS now has enough bandwidth for its internet connection to have students have live meetings on Google Meet.

Graves said it may be unrealistic to expect students to go to the holiday break having completed the same amount of work as in normal times previously where the fall semester extended into January for final exams. He said at the special meeting he wanted to discuss what state and federal standards will be for schools in the time of the pandemic.

“There has to be some flexibility,” he said.

Contact Charles Curcio at charles.curcio@stanlynewspress.com, call (704) 983-1361, or via Twitter (@charles_curcio).

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio was the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press from 1999-2001 and has currently served in the same capacity since 2008. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also been honored twice by the North Carolina Press Association.

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