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Yukon’s distance learning efforts see signs of success, official says

After two full weeks, the experiment known as distance learning seems to be working well in Yukon, the district’s school superintendent said Monday.
Dr. Jason Simeroth said there were a few hiccups the first week, but most issues worked themselves out by the start of the second.
Monday began the third week that students have been going to class in their living rooms, dining rooms and dens.
Some students are using computers and smartphones to gather their lesson plans. Others are still doing it the old-fashioned way — pencil and paper.
About 70 Yukon High Schools students are using Chromebooks on loan from the district.
“It is a new experience for us all,” said Simeroth.
The first week, he said, was chaotic as teachers tried to put together lesson plans and get them delivered to students.
There also were some minor technology issues, such as getting everyone permission to look at the documents online.
However, those issues have since been resolved.
“The second week was much better,” he said.
At least a majority of Yukon’s students are using some form of technology. Simeroth said one day last week, more than 5,000 people logged onto the district distance-learning website.
All of the high school curriculum is online.
But for those who prefer the traditional method of teaching, hundreds of packets are being created and handed out each Monday with the noon meal distribution.
“We didn’t know what to expect. It was such a monumental task to get started, but the teachers and the curriculum department that worked on this have stepped up,” the superintendent said.
Simeroth said he believes most of the district’s students are participating in some way.
“Overall it’s been a pretty positive reaction,” he said.
The district will get a better view of things after the year ends May 8. The school plans to send a survey to parents to learn what they liked about the system and what they didn’t.
One positive, Simeroth said, is that parents are very involved in their students’ efforts right now, though teachers do have office hours available to help.
“It is a very parent-guardian-heavy process when you do all of this at home,” he said.
And while Simeroth said the system is working, it is not the preferred method of teaching students.
“I am not happy not having them in school, but I am thrilled with the effort that our teachers and parents have put out to make it happen,” he said.
It also sets the stage for next year when the middle and high schools will go one-on-one with Chromebooks.
Simeroth said each of those students will receive a Chromebook to utilize.
In addition, that may extend to the elementary levels.
That will allow for an expansion of the district’s virtual school program.
“It has been an interesting year. This all happened so fast, it was out of the blue. But you see support all over. … Everyone comes together and tries to do the right thing. It has been a horrible situation, but you have to look for the silver linings,” Simeroth said.

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