Virtual Academy Back to School Letter

Virtual Academy Back to School Letter
Posted on 08/30/2020
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Good Morning Virtual Learning Families!

My intent this morning is to answer some questions about tomorrow’s first day of school, as well as some other questions that may help bring some clarity to our virtual learning families.  Before I share more, I’d like to offer my thanks to everyone in the St. Joseph School District who has worked tirelessly to make the virtual learning option a reality for our families.  From our technology support teams, to our operations teams, to our teachers and course designers, tomorrow’s opening of virtual learning in St. Joseph is a tribute to your work and your vision.  To our parents, I offer thanks for the patience that has been required as we navigate the systems and logistics that have been required for opening a school that has an enrollment that has far exceeded anything we expected.  We currently have nearly 2,900 students participating in the Virtual Academy—and we’re excited to provide high-quality education in the online environment to all of them!

First, let me say that I recognize that there are concerns about students being penalized for not being able to login tomorrow.  This is not going to happen.  Our teachers will be working during the opening days of school to make sure all students are able to access Canvas and will be helping familiarize students with the platform and the procedures that go along with online learning.  There is no penalty for a student who cannot log in tomorrow.  Many elementary teachers began calling families on Friday afternoon—and this has continued through the weekend and will continue tomorrow.  Our middle school and high school teachers have prepared emails that will be sent to students’ email accounts to introduce themselves and welcome them to classes.  These are set to go out first thing tomorrow morning.

For our families who did not pick up technology that they needed for virtual learning, you may go to TMC, 3401 Renick, tomorrow between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to pick up your devices.  This process goes much more quickly for families who have completed the district’s online registration (required for all students, virtual and face-to-face). 

We are still working through some balancing of course sizes and a few other issues that occurred Friday when the student information system (PowerSchool) and our learning management system (Canvas) were finally able to complete associations of courses and student enrollments.  This balancing may mean that a new section is opened to accommodate the number of students enrolled in a middle or high school course if it is too large.  It may mean that a few students are moved to another section of the same class if one is larger than another (for instance, if one section has 42 and another has 24, we would move students to make the sections balanced at enrollments of 33).  This kind of work typically occurs before the start of school, but with the July 31st deadline for choosing either face-to-face learning or virtual learning, this work has to happen now.

A few other notes:

  • We’ve found that there are many families who are not receiving our email communication.This is primarily due to the receiver having blocked the St. Joseph School District or because the emails are going into a spam or junk folder. Please check your email account to make sure neither of these is the case for you.We want you to receive all of the information we send!
  • If you have not completed online registration, please visit this page for access.If you are a returning student a separate email is being sent today from our technology team that will include the snap code you will need to complete this process. Students new to the district should register as new students.
  • If your student needs materials, such as reading books, library books, texts, or any other items for class, we are able to provide those.Please email your student’s teacher or call the Virtual Academy at 816.671.4011.
  • Lunches are available for Virtual Academy students.If you wish to sign up for the week’s meals, which will be available for pick up at one of three sites, please visit the Nutrition Services Meal Pick Up page. Meals for this week must be ordered today using the Google form on the page.
  • The Virtual Academy page on the district’s website has a number of helpful tutorials, as well as a button to access the Canvas login page for families using personal devices instead of district-issued technology.We plan to continue updating the page, so you are encouraged to visit it regularly. This page will also house all the communications we send to families.
  • If you are having difficulty logging into your device or have issues with apps not being on the device, please call the help desk at 816.671.4444.
  • I have changed the permissions for observer pairing codes to be generated in Canvas, so parents who wish to complete the observer sign-up should now be able to do so.

We look forward to ironing out these back-to-school challenges this week and are excited to work with you!  Thank you for wanting to be part of this journey!


Dr. Marlie Williams

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