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No more space in Twin Falls distance learning program, district looks at options
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No more space in Twin Falls distance learning program, district looks at options

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Checking out Chromebooks

Cheri McKenzie, principal, shows what the checkout form look like for students to receive Chromebooks Monday, March 30, 2020, at Lincoln Elementary School in Twin Falls.

TWIN FALLS — Space ran out in the Twin Falls School District’s distance learning program as more families than expected signed up to limit their exposure to COVID-19.

The home-school option developed for kindergarten-eighth grade students in Twin Falls School District recently reached capacity, spokeswoman Eva Craner told the Times-News. The district knows more families still want to learn remotely this year, and it’s “committed to developing another option” for those students, she said.

Administrators budgeted for a maximum of 200 students in the program, “which we thought was consistent with how many parents indicated they were looking for this kind of program back in May when we surveyed them,” Craner said.

“That has obviously changed.”

The district contracts with Venture Upward to provide the home-school alternative for students. The option has been available before, but far more families signed up this year as they seek to avoid in-person instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Venture Upward lead teacher Shawnee Zelenka said a waitlist has already grown to more than 50.

A plan is still being developed for those families who want distance learning but were unable to get into Venture Upward, Craner said. As of now, the district hopes to teach math and English language arts through the Idaho Digital Learning Academy — the same platform available for students in grades seven-12 who want fully online instruction. Other content areas like science and social studies would be taught remotely by district teachers.

“We hope to build a partnership to deliver the best educational experience for our students,” Craner said.

Parents who prefer to put their child in a distance learning program must notify the district by 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

“The Twin Falls School District needs a count of the number of students who are committed to the online virtual schools for the 2020-21 school year,” the district wrote in an email to parents. “In order to staff both in person and online classrooms these numbers need to be solidified. After August 5, no additional students will be able to sign up for full online (distance) learning for the year.”

Trustees recently approved a plan to teach the district’s nearly 10,000 students. Schools will open in different levels of operation depending on the severity of the outbreak, from traditional in-person instruction to fully remote learning. All staff and students will be required to wear a mask during times of community spread.

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