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Pinellas schools all set for online learning, leaders say

Teachers will be trained next week, and digital devices are available to all students who need them.
Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego said the district is ready to launch online classes in the wake of school closings brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. "We’ll learn from this," he said. "This is unprecedented.” [SHADD, DIRK  |  Times (2014)]
Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego said the district is ready to launch online classes in the wake of school closings brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. "We’ll learn from this," he said. "This is unprecedented.” [SHADD, DIRK | Times (2014)]

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ST. PETERSBURG — Pinellas County school officials said Wednesday they are ready to deliver online instruction to students in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Students who need it will be provided with a free home internet connection through a partnership between the school district and the cable TV company Spectrum. More than 15,000 students are expected to pick up laptops and tablets from their respective schools starting Monday.

Online work begins Tuesday. Through Friday, students will receive “academic enrichment” assignments, or general lessons for each grade that will help students and families “get to know the digital platforms” the district is using, according to the district website.

One is clever.com, a digital learning portal some students already regularly use. Another is Microsoft Teams, which calls itself a “digital hub that brings conversations, content, assignments and apps together in one place, letting teachers create vibrant learning environments."

Class-by-class assignments will begin March 30 and will be based on learning standards, associate superintendent Kevin Hendrick said at a news conference Wednesday.

Next week, while students are doing the more basic “academic enrichment” assignments, teachers will undergo training on how to “run a digital classroom,” said Hendrick, who oversees teaching and learning for the district.

The schedule makes it so students, parents and teachers can get used to online learning before moving to more complex material, he said. In a couple weeks, he expects teachers to be uploading lecture videos and hosting live chat sessions with students.

Related: Florida scraps testing K-12 testing, students to stay home through April 15, governor says

There will be “daily expectations” for students, meaning assignment deadlines and required times to check in with teachers. But for much of the day-to-day work, students can move at their own pace, Hendrick said.

Superintendent Mike Grego also spoke at the news conference, praising the district and School Board for working fast to get online learning up and running in response to the coronavirus. He said he has had “nearly daily” conference calls with Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran.

“Our goal is to really ensure that instruction is carried on," he said. "We’ll learn from this. This is unprecedented.”

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