RSD announces Rockwood Online, new structure for online learning to be implemented for 2021-2022 school year

Guitar+teacher+Traci+Bolton+simultaneously+instructs+her+in-person+students+and+her+online+learners+during+her+4th+Hour+guitar+ensemble+class.+Unlike+in+this+picture%2C+virtual++students+next+year+will+be+asynchronous.

Keira Coverdell

Guitar teacher Traci Bolton simultaneously instructs her in-person students and her online learners during her 4th Hour guitar ensemble class. Unlike in this picture, virtual students next year will be asynchronous.

Morgan Vehige, Asst. Editor

For the 2021-2022 school year, the Rockwood at Home program will be no more. Instead, the Rockwood School District (RSD) is creating Rockwood Online, which will be vastly different from this year’s online learning procedures.

Assistant Superintendent of School Supervision Lisa Counts is leading a district-wide task force in order to prepare for the upcoming school year in terms of COVID-19 safety and educational goals. One of the primary concerns of the group is how online schooling will continue. 

Setting up a completely virtual option has always been on the table for the RSD, but with the resources available due to COVID-19, the plan has been put on a fast track.

“We had started doing some of this before the pandemic. Our strategic plan for the Rockwood School District has always been focused on incorporating more online and blended learning options,” Counts said.

Major key differences for the Rockwood Online model are that courses are mostly student-driven. A Rockwood teacher will be the one directing the course, but students won’t sit with their teacher each day at a scheduled time. Instead, it is up to the student to work asynchronously at their own pace and view the lessons on their own time.

“Next year, the virtual platform will be an asynchronous model. It will be more like if a student had taken an online course in years past. It’s more of an independent work situation,” Counts said.

The number of teachers who will instruct an online course will depend on the number of students who sign up for the Rockwood Online program. Ideally, there would be a strictly online teacher for each department at a few schools in the district. However, until the numbers are determined, it is not set in stone.

Students would not be able to switch back and forth between in-person and online learning either. Once a choice is made, unless there are other circumstances in a student’s education, it will remain permanent for at least the semester and possibly the whole school year.

Counts does not believe the Rockwood Online program is a good choice for every student. She said while online learning has its benefits, it can also be taxing on any student.

“As we look at next year, we are developing this platform for a certain type of learner, and not all learners will do their best in an online platform. As a student, you have to manage more on your own,” Counts said. “It’s still the Rockwood curriculum, it will still be taught by Rockwood teachers, we’re trying to make sure we communicate well [for the students and parents] that it is going to be different.”

Currently, Lafayette has less than 20 students signed up for the Rockwood Online program. Despite currently being an online learner, junior Casey Murphy has come to the conclusion that the program is not something that she sees in her future. 

Murphy initially came back to school for in-person learning on Nov. 12, but after two days was contact traced and quarantined due to someone in one of her classes contracting COVID-19. 

Due to this, Murphy decided that it was best for herself to remain an online learner for the rest of the school year.

“A really big thing for me is that I want to go to college for playing water polo. Our junior year is really important because come the spring we have to sign on to colleges, they wouldn’t be watching our senior season that much. I needed to have a good spring season and I didn’t want it to be influenced by being quarantined,” Murphy said. 

Online learning has proven difficult for Murphy, much like other students. She finds it difficult to pay attention in class and believes her quality of education to be worse because of it.

“In general, it’s easier to focus being in-school and being able to talk to your teachers. It’s really hard if you have questions in Zoom because some teachers don’t check their chat or they’ll forget to connect their audio or some other things like that,” Murphy said. “There are a lot of teachers, they try their hardest and I’m grateful for them, but they don’t necessarily know how to teach the online and in-person students at the same time.”

She believes the Rockwood Online program will be better for both in-person students and online students.

“I like it better because they’re planning on not having mixed classes. It’ll be a lot easier for the online kids because the teachers can create the course for them and don’t have to make it work for both,” Murphy said.

Even though Murphy is glad to return to in-person learning next school year, she continues to recognize the importance of her education and hopes that everyone can make the choice that is best for them.

“Our entire world has been one way for so long, and then COVID happened. It’s weird to think we’ve been in this for a year now. People are like ‘I want to get life back to normal’, it’s never going to be normal again. Our lives have made an entire 180, and it’s never going to go right back,” Murphy said. “It’s going to go similar again, but there are changes that will be implemented. It’s still going to be here, people are still going to be affected by it, so we’ll have to take precautions for the rest of our lives.”