NYC to Offer Online Learning to Students Displaced by Sandy

GothamSchools.org reports that students who haven’t been able to get back to the classroom as a result of the Hurricane Sandy now have another option to help them keep up with their academic work. The New York City Department of Education is moving ahead with an expansion of its online learning offerings as an alternative for those whose lives continue to be affected by the storm.

The step is mainly to ensure that those who continue to miss classes due to their school being shuttered or their home situation continuing to be unstable won’t fall so far behind in the interim that catching up could prove to be a real struggle. Schools that offer online courses will offer them to more students, and kids who enroll will be able to count the classes for course credit.

Although this will provide flexibility to many who might be completely unable to continue learning otherwise, the solution isn’t perfect. For one, it requires that students have internet access — something that has become an issue in the wake of the devastation brought by Sandy.

“The goal is to help kids get as much instruction as possible,” said department spokeswoman Connie Pankratz. “We were able to build this up really quickly because we had this platform already existing.”

She said the specific program offerings and the cost to the department will be determined by the demand of the students who end up enrolling, and thousands are eligible. But the cost is not likely to be high because the organizations that created the software are allowing the department to use them for free.

Gotham’s Rachel Cromidas writes that students in grades 6-12 will be eligible to take advantage of the online option and courses in all the core subjects such as English and mathematics will be available. Students will also have access to some elective courses such as economics. Students must fill out an online form indicating which of the courses they’ve been taking in traditional classrooms that they would like to continue online.

The costs of the online option will be determined by the interest and enrollment levels, although according to Gotham, thousands are eligible. As the group that created the online course software in use by the district is allowing it to be utilized at no cost, even if the majority of those who qualify take advantage, the price tag is unlikely to be ruinously high.

NYC employing online learning to mitigate the effects of weather-related emergency isn’t new. Some states in which the closing of schools due to snow is a fairly common occurrence also take advantage of the technology to help their students stay up to date with their studies.

One such state – Ohio – has a law on the books that allows districts that employ the traditional mode of teaching to switch to online learning for up to three days out of each academic year to make up for school closures due to winter weather.