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Superintendent gives distance learning progress report

By Staff | Apr 17, 2020

Rugby Public Schools Superintendent Mike McNeff took to social media last Wednesday to brief parents and community members on the progress of the district’s distance learning program and answer questions.

In a live video chat session hosted by Facebook, McNeff also informed parents of security changes to Zoom, the live meeting software platform used by the district.

“Zoom has been undergoing scrutiny nationwide and even in our state with some security issues,” McNeff explained. “A lot of those concerns that have happened nationally and with our state are due to the fact the technology is not being used correctly.”

“Initially, when we created this platform, we wanted to have as few barriers as possible for parents and students to access those Zoom meetings,” McNeff said.

“We’re slowly realizing we need to bring everything back together and close it off,” McNeff added. “Zoom’s a very safe platform. We’re taking added security measures to make sure our spaces remain safe for our kids.”

McNeff said the district would remove all public links to the platform from its website. The district would then create new Zoom meetings and restrict attendance to users with meeting identifications. Old Zoom meetings would be deleted.

New meeting IDs were emailed to students’ homes Monday.

“(Identification information and passwords) will be changed every two weeks,” McNeff said. “That will be closed off and you’ll know exactly what those passwords are.”

“Grades pre-kindergarten through 3, Zoom info will be emailed or posted to their closed Facebook groups,” McNeff said. “Also, in grades 4 through 12, those new meeting IDs and Zoom connections will be housed in their Google classroom.”

“It’s important that students in grades 4-12 will know how to access those. Teachers will email those out,” McNeff added.

McNeff also answered questions about ways to check student progress.

“We had some questions about grading and reporting and this is mainly for the junior high and high school students there will be a missing assignment report that will be generated (every) Wednesday morning,” he said.

“You can also keep up to date with Power School. Teachers are using Power School a little differently, but those grades should start flowing into Power School as we continue down this path,” McNeff added.

“If there are questions and concerns about student grades, please contact your specific teacher. That would be the best person to ask,” McNeff said.

McNeff said teachers were also the best source of information for guidance on recommended time spent studying and possibly modifying lessons to include worksheets.

“Next topic is technology,” McNeff said. “I want to remind students the chromebooks (provided to homes by the district) are district-owned items and the rugbyschools.org accounts are district owned, and they’re for educational purposes only.”

McNeff reminded parents to monitor their children’s online activity.

McNeff said although the 2019-2020 school year has a decidedly different look, school activities would continue with modifications.

“We’ll have spirit week,” McNeff said. “There will be activities posted on our Facebook page. Thank you for the teachers who organized that. There will be dress-up days and we’ll post them to our hashtag, and they’ll be on our Facebook page. Take pictures of yourselves dressed in different costumes,” he urged.

McNeff also answered questions about high school courses and sports.

“With driver’s ed,” McNeff said, “there is potential that we could deliver the classroom portion in an online environment. There is some guidance coming out. It gets tricky,” he noted. ” You’re talking about social distancing (which would pose problems in most vehicles). The driving portion we’re going to come up with some alternatives down the road for driver’s ed, but we’re going to work on getting that classroom portion accomplished this year.”

“Graduation I know is a big topic,” McNeff added. “Unfortunately, I don’t have any guidance on that yet.”

“I know that’s a big one and like anything, we’re going to do our best to have those things, whether it’s graduation or prom or other big time events,” McNeff said. “I just don’t have guidance on that. At some point, fairly soon we’ll have some information coming out.”

“At this point, it’s hard to plan that far ahead,” McNeff said of graduation plans.

“We’re going to do something. What that something is, I don’t know. We know these are milestone events for families; our seniors. My heart goes out to those seniors especially.”

Yearbooks for both Rugby High School and Ely Elementary School were still in production, McNeff noted.

McNeff said North Dakota Gov. Burgum’s executive order closing schools “goes on indefinitely. We will continue doing this indefinitely. We’re not quite sure what that means.”

McNeff praised Rugby High School Athletic Director Scott Grochow for creating “Friday Night Lights,” a tribute to RHS athletes shown by turning the lights on at Johnsen Field Friday evenings.

“I appreciate all the compliments to our teachers and the websites they’ve created and all the things they’re trying to do to connect with kids and try to make this the best experience they possibly can,” McNeff said of parent and community feedback he’s received. “Thank you for those. There’s a lot of those positive comments.:

“There is also a great critique of the program that’s very helpful,” McNeff said. “We’ve gotten several good ideas from families, whether it’s for our academic programming or how we should do food service, so we’re always open to receiving good feedback on how we can do things better.”

McNeff said the distance learning experience “could be a positive” for Rugby students and families. “I see the hustle and bustle slowing down. We’ll look back on this and find some positives out of it.”

“Keep us in the loop,” McNeff told parents. “If you have questions, ask. Email us.”

“Stay safe, stay socially distant and keep washing your hands,” he added.

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