Many Iowa City Students Opt for District Online School ::

– In his virtual classroom, Iowa City math teacher Bennett Brown says he has more time to challenge students who excel in class and work individually with those who struggle with core content.

Brown teaches for ICCSD Online, a new permanent virtual learning school in the Iowa City Community School District. Students who are actively engaged in his classroom have “huge” success, he said, which they might not have achieved in a face-to-face learning environment.

The Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that students who suffer from social anxiety, feel embarrassed by their clothes or appearance, or who dislike navigating busy hallways may think they can concentrate better on their studies in an environment online learning. And Brown doesn’t waste time in class disciplining students.

About 850 students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 are enrolled in the online school. Some families have enrolled their children due to continued uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. Others have found virtual learning to work for their families after trying it in the 2020-21 school year due to the pandemic.

“In-person education fails a huge number of children” because it is not rigorous or relevant enough, Brown said. But, “I still have online students who belong in person, and there are in-person students who probably would do better online.”

Jack Struthers, 12, has been enrolled in some form of virtual learning since March 2020. His mother, Jenny Struthers, said he is doing very well academically.

“I was very impressed with the online program,” she said. “I wasn’t afraid he was falling behind.”

Struthers said Jack’s teachers are “excellent” and clear about their expectations of the students. He attends classes virtually with live instruction. If he needs extra help, he can go to a virtual classroom later in the day to get one-on-one learning.

Now that he’s able to get his COVID-19 shot, Jack is returning to in-person learning for socializing, Struthers said. “It’s about time,” she said, adding that ICCSD online is a good option for families who still don’t feel safe in a face-to-face environment or who have found virtual learning to be. simply better for them.

Renee Zukin, who teaches English in grades 7-9, first taught virtually during the 2020-21 school year because it was a “safe choice” for her and her family, she said. she declared.

Zukin soon realized that virtual learning was an incredible opportunity for some students and saw himself being taught online for the foreseeable future. His own daughter, a grade 10 student, is learning online this year.

Eighth grade students in Zukin’s class learn short stories, talk about literary elements, themes, and plot structure before they try their hand at writing their own short story.

In class, students have the choice of reading alone, reading in groups, or even listening to a recording of the reading, depending on how they learn best.

Some students are more engaged in the classroom – using virtual chat features to send questions or feedback to what Zukin is teaching without having to raise their hands and speak out loud in front of their peers, a trying experience for some.

Occasionally, students are visited by Zukin’s dogs – Charlie and Doug – when they appear in his camera view.

Luke Dillon helps teachers – and families – meet the needs of students as the first director of ICCSD online.

ICCSD students online can still attend certain classes of their choice, such as music, on-site and also attend school events like dances, Dillon said. But ICCSD Online strives to create its own culture with virtual clubs, like chess, and even virtual lunches that students can join.

The school also now offers in-person support to students and families twice a week.

District officials will monitor students’ success in online learning through test scores, determining what is working and where improvements need to be made, Dillon said. Data on test results are not yet available for the new program.

ICCSD online isn’t for everyone, Dillon said. Online students should have a dedicated workspace at home, in a quiet, distraction-free location. Students must have an “intrinsic motivation” and take advantage of available academic supports, Dillon said. Parents should also participate and support online learning.

“They are an extension of the classroom teacher,” Dillon said.

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