Pottsgrove OKs Learning Management System for K-5

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Education’s digitally enhanced advantages are expected to arrive this fall on the virtual doorsteps of Pottsgrove elementary students – those in kindergarten through fifth grade – and their families as the result of a district Board of School Directors‘ decision Tuesday (June 9, 2020).

Directors agreed to spend $8,750 during the 2020-2021 academic year to equip West Pottsgrove, Ringing Rocks, and Lower Pottsgrove elementaries with what’s called a learning management system. It’s expected to give the district’s youngest students, their teachers, and parents the same online tools, and more complete access to lessons and learning content, already used in the middle and high schools.

Superintendent Dr. William Shirk’s request for the purchase was, he acknowledged, somewhat out of the blue. It did not appear as part of the board agenda, and was raised during its last-of-the-night “new business” discussions. Directors received advance information about the proposal only hours earlier, he reported.

Shirk apologized for the sense of urgency, but the lack of such a system was a problem the three schools’ administrative and teaching teams recommended should be addressed before the just-launched summer vacation ends. “It’s another tool in the tool box,” he observed, “that came out of the COVID-19 piece as a need.”

He and upper-level administrators expect buildings will re-open in the fall under state-imposed restrictions for continued post-pandemic social distancing, Shirk explained. The “education landscape has changed, and changed forever,” the superintendent declared, because schools across Pennsylvania likely will be required to embrace more hybrid and distance learning.

With only weeks before classes resume, however, the district must set up the system, provide staff in-service training, and familiarize families with its new offerings, Shirk noted.

An existing contract for a learning management system called Schoology, on which Pottsgrove already relies for students in grades 6-12, will be extended to include 1,500 elementary learners, directors unanimously agreed. Although the action effectively doubles district Schoology costs to more than $17,000, the added expense will be covered in its first year by federal grant money, according to Business Administrator David Nester.

Outgoing Ringing Rocks Principal Dr. Lisa Jones described how Schoology will make it easier for teachers to upload, and families to use, exercises and lessons in video and other formats. Board Vice President Al Leach also promoted greater integration for parents with coming changes to the district website, putting all school-related online tools in one place for easiest access.

Photo from USAr, used under a Creative Commons license