Global Impact STEM Academy to start fall with blended learning

The Global Impact STEM Academy will begin the fall with blended learning for the first semester, according to the academy’s director.

“All of our reopening plans and decisions on instruction are being made by prioritizing the health and safety of our students and staff,” said Director Josh Jennings.

GISA will offer three plans – A, B and C – but will start off with plan B, blended learning.

Plan A is students attend in-person with additional safety protocols in place except for those choosing to access classes remotely.

Plan B is blended learning where the school will operate at half capacity in-person with others working remotely with additional safety protocols in place.

Plan C is remote learning where all students will access classes and coursework remotely if the school is required to close.

For blended learning, students will be dividing into two groups by the last digit of their student ID, except those in the same household will be in the same group, and they will rotate each week, Jennings said. This plan also allows families the option to elect for complete remote learning.

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“During the first part of August, we will be asking families to make a determination as to which of the two options they will commit to. We will also be sending home a calendar that breaks down the days that both group “A” and group “B” students will be in the school building,” Jennings said.

Jennings also said the academy has invested in equipment for students to be a part of the class as if they were present, attendance will be taken for each class and students will be held accountable as if they were physically in class.

“Plan B is the most complicated; however, it provides the school with the most flexibility in offering unique STEM experiences while at the same time ensuring the health and wellbeing of our students and community,” Jennings said.

One father of a seventh and ninth grader said he is impressed with the reopening plans.

“I realize that they have an edge on other districts because of their non-traditional approach to learning environments, but here again they were willing to look beyond a binary live versus virtual option and find a way to use both models simultaneously,” said Jeremy Hudson. “These puts the varying learning styles and educational needs of different students still within reach for teachers and they are doing it while striving to be as safe as possible for all involved.”

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All staff and students will be required to wear a face covering unless they are unable to do so for a health or developmental reason, including in the classroom especially when working with others and in common areas, Jennings said. All students will also be provided with a GISA embroidered masks.

Hudson said his family supports the academy’s mask guidelines.

“For me, it really isn’t a debate about mask effectiveness,” he said. “My expertise is in working with people, and what I know is that you can work with people or get them to work together if you don’t first have trust. If by wearing a mask helps you know that I/we can be trusted... then no problem.”

He added that he loves that GISA is issuing branded masks as well.

“The fact that they are branded with the GISA logo has a unifying effect. The students and the teachers get visible reminder that they are in this together,” Hudson said.

Other guidelines include health assessments before going to school, arranging classrooms and labs to provide social distancing, increasing cleaning and disinfecting in buildings and classrooms, and assigning seating. The academy will also install physical barriers and guides in some areas, implement hand hygiene and limit sharing of supplies and visitors.