Virtual Extended School Year engages more than 6,000 students

School District of Palm Beach County
Special to the Lake Okeechobee News

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
PALM BEACH COUNTY — Teachers and students use Google Classrooms to meet virtually for classes.

WEST PALM BEACH — More than 6,000 students in the School District of Palm Beach County have been continuing their learning virtually this summer through Extended School Year (ESY).

“ESY is super -crucial to prevent loss of skill. I think that, given the situation, teachers have really stepped up to the plate and honed in on their practices,” said Bryan Russell, Exceptional Student Education (ESE) inclusion specialist. “Not only are they working to prevent that loss of skill, but now they have more tools to bring to the classroom in whatever capacity.”

Students with Individualized Education Plans are interacting with teachers online multiple days a week. They are also receiving critical services such as speech, language, occupational and physical therapies.

“The students are able to have that interaction with their teachers and their peers in some kind of structured environment,” said Lisa Lutz, ESE instructional specialist.

More than 400 ESE teachers and 120 speech language pathologists are leading ESY virtually this summer, in addition to occupational and physical therapists. The participating educators formed their own professional learning community through Google Classroom to interact, ask questions and share resources.

“During ESY, we’ve had the opportunity to establish a whole new standard of practice within distance learning, and our teachers, students and parents have stepped up to the challenge,” said Kevin McCormick, director of ESE for the district.

ESE department leaders have been hosting virtual office hours every Tuesday and Wednesday on various topics for educators doing ESY. They’ve witnessed new connections form among teachers from different schools and hope to maintain this new level of collaboration into next school year.

“It’s a great place for conversation and support for teachers to find out what other teachers are doing,” Lutz said.

Teachers are also utilizing tools such as Flipgrid, a social learning platform that allows students to record videos relating to certain topics and assignments. The goal is to further engage students and monitor their progress.

“I guarantee teachers are going to take what they’ve learned during ESY and apply it for all types of learners in the fall,” Russell said.

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