As school districts nationwide scurried to implement full-blown online learning in the midst of COVID-19 shutting down virtually all school buildings in early 2020, Oxford Community Schools in Michigan was one of those in the best position of any district to make a seamless transition – a transition that is yet to be determined if it’ll be temporary or long-term on-line learning.
Oxford has roughly 8,000 students in multiple school settings. These include traditional seated students, plus Oxford Bridges, an alternative school for kids who would struggle to make it through a typical high school setting, and a program called Crossroads, for adjudicated youth.
Even more, there is a section of high school kids who are on a 5-year plan that rolls in college credit, so they graduate after a 13th year with both a high school diploma and two years of college credit in hand.
With all those programs, about half of the 8,000 students are participants of the Oxford Virtual Academy, an online alternative that provides options for full-time diploma seeking students, supplemental education for home-schooled students, and full-time hybrid pathways. This already fully-functioning online academy can more easily put the district in a position to transfer all ‘seated learning’ to an online model.
When it comes to all the various styles of enrollment and school building vs. non-school building attendees – in a new era of 100 percent online learning in 2020 – it goes without saying that Senior Technology Consultant Debbie Fox could have easily become overwhelmed.
“It’s close to having a separate school district within our district because the virtual school has different guidelines and different needs and different wants and different programs,” Fox said. “If I had to do all that (data management) myself, it would be a nightmare.”
Instead, Debbie Fox partners with Level Data and gave the following example about working together in the beginning to set up PowerSchool Learning for all students, then and now, to be successful.
Fox explained how every night at the beginning of the process, she spent two hours manually adjusting data so she could import clean staff and student data into the program.
“I’m not exaggerating at all; it was a two-hour process for me, and it was very stressful,” Fox said. “At the start it was every night, then it became every other night with students coming and going and transferring from one class to another class. All of it had to be updated daily, whether a student decided to change from Biology to Earth Science, it had to be updated as soon as possible so the student would have access to the new teacher’s information.
“I was doing this on a regular basis the entire fall semester, and before you know it the new semester was starting. So, it would take another two weeks of nightly imports and exports to have everything running correctly.
“Now I don’t have to worry about any of that anymore. Level Data takes care of it, and it’s done automatically every night. I went from two hours a night to zero.”
Why is having PowerSchool Learning working properly as a primary functional piece so critical in this current time frame of dealing with school closures? Fox said it is so every student and teacher can effectively and properly communicate and get the best possible results from an online education experience.
“Each teacher can put their information out there – and now with the COVID-19 virus, knowing that all the students are properly in PowerSchool Learning, teachers are able to rely on that to keep students up to date with what’s going on, and give out schoolwork and information in one location.
“Another example would be in today’s math lessons,” Fox intimated. “A teacher being able to post a video, or a link to a video, showing the work and how the math problem was figured out, or ‘this is how the teacher did it’ really helps kids and parents understand. Knowing that kids have access to that, and can get it, is great.”
The bottom line is Fox is confident she is doing her best to make sure each student is set up for learning success – and partnering with Level Data is one factor in the equation.
“Back in the day we started the PowerSchool Learning system, Level Data gave me my life back,” Fox said. “The staff is wonderful to work with, and I know if I ever put in a helpdesk ticket or make a call, I will hear back within the hour. Everyone there is fantastic to work with.”