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Gilman seeks to refine online schooling, preparing for school to start

The Gilman School Board has been working on refining online education programs, including looking at the eSucceed charter school for kindergarten through fifth (K-5) grade, with the contract is still being drafted.

The K-5 expansion won’t cost anything to start, but will come at a cost of $8,125 per student. For grades 9-12, the district will pay a share of $26,000 out of the $426,000 total cost for online classes, which covers more than just Gilman’s district.

“[The K-5 expansion] is very interactive, very engaging for an elementary student,” said superintendent Wally Leipart, while also explaining they aren’t aiming to have kids glued to their computers for the same duration which normal school lasts. “It’s not about having kids online for eight hours a day, five days a week. It’s three to five hours, two to four assignments a week per course.”

They’re considering iPads for K-5, because they need technology to maintain a proper learning environment. Some people, especially older generations who may not be particularly fond of evolving technology, often decry moving away from old-fashioned ways and disagree with acts such as progressing the use of technology in education, despite it being a vastly superior system.

“It may be foreign to some of us, but when given the opportunity, kids will use [electronic learning systems,]” Leipart said. “My daughter just graduated high school, and she went through the whole thing using just an iPad, not even a computer.”

Leipart said the cost would not exceed $358 for an iPad and protective case per student.

Through all this, Leipart pointed out that a virtual school isn’t a new concept for Gilman, as the district authorized an online school back in 2006, and have had an entire family’s kids attend e-school from the very beginning all the way through to graduation.

Summer school will continue virtually, and in-person classes are hoped to be resumed for the next full school year, with the district planning to be in the building September 1, although that’s dependent on the pandemic.

The district is following guidelines put out to them by officials, although they’re nixing some suggestions put forth which they consider overbearing and brainstorming more level-headed responses. For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended having only nine students in a physical class.

“That’s not happening, that’s not reasonable,” said Leipart. “But, is it reasonable to have hand-sanitizing stations, to have staggered entering and exiting the building? Absolutely.”

The limited number of students compared to the rather large size of the school will enable better social distancing too, enabling the situation to be better controlled.

“We’ll have 290 kids in the school next year, and we have a building that could easily hold 600 to 700,” explained Leipart. “So that’s why we feel confident that, barring an outbreak in our area, we can manage students very effectively.”