LPS remote learning deadline means families have to make tough decisions

The deadline to register for Lincoln Public Schools' new remote learning program is Feb. 19.

Families are faced with tough decisions between now and Feb. 19. That is the deadline to register for Lincoln Public Schools’ new remote learning program for the 2021-22 school year. Some parents are frustrated that the deadline is so early.

“I think how they’re rolling out this plan for next year is deeply flawed,” says Michelle Howell Smith, a mother of two school-age children. “The world is going to be much different in August than it is in February and it’s really impossible to predict.”

Stephanie Anderson is also an LPS parent who has five children currently in the LPS school system. Her son is weighing whether or not to learn remotely next year.

“I asked my sophomore, ‘Hey, do you want to remote next year?’ He’s like, ‘Well, is Coronavirus still gonna be here?’ I don’t know, bud,” Anderson said.

LPS associate superintendent Matt Larson says the reason decisions have to be made so quickly is in order to staff and build a curriculum.

“We’re essentially opening a new school, it just doesn’t have a physical presence,” Larson said. “So we have to go through all of those steps that we build a schedule, staffing, and do all the things you would do if you were running a physical school.”

After receiving feedback from parents, LPS is allowing all grades to participate in the remote learning program. Previously, only students grades 3 through 12 were eligible. LPS is asking parents who register for the remote learning program to make a one semester commitment. Larson says the remote learning curriculum will be more condensed than the in-person curriculum.

“We will not offer the full range of curriculum at the elementary, middle level or high school level,” Larson said. “It’s simply not possible to do that in our remote learning environment.”

This is disappointing to parents with students that have interest in extracurricular activities, have special needs, or want to take advanced placement classes. Howell Smith’s son, who will be a ninth-grader next fall, plays the cello. She says the family still doesn’t know remote orchestra classes will be offered to high school students in the fall.

“Would we make our decision based solely on the availability of doing orchestra remote? Probably not,” Howell Smith said. “I think safety would be more important. But it would be helpful to know whether or not he’d be able to do things like participate in music activities.”

After having conversations with her children, Anderson says she anticipates all of her kids to opt for in-person learning next year. Her elementary schoolers love the camaraderie of learning in person, her high schooler doesn’t want to miss out on taking advanced placement classes, and her middle schooler needs to be in school to with the support of her individualized education program team.

“I think that each parent needs to decide with their own kids what works best for them,” Anderson said. “We don’t know what each kid needs. You know what your kid needs, make that decision for you and your kid. I’ll do it for mine.”

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