Students at Indianapolis Public Schools begin the 2020-21 academic year today with virtual-only classes and face a "potential technical glitch."
Sunday night the district said a temporary error in the software used for its remote classes could prevent students from fully interacting with their teachers. IPS is using the Microsoft Teams platform to deliver most of its online curriculum. The error was first noticed on Friday afternoon, the district said.
"When teachers and students are engaging through Microsoft Teams, all teachers will be able to hear their students but some teachers may not be able to see their students," the district said in an email to parents. "Likewise, while students will be able to see and hear their teacher, they may not be able to see other students."
The district said all student accounts should be updated and working correctly by Tuesday morning.
The state's largest district is offering remote learning as the only option for a majority of its nearly 30,000 students enrolled in its traditional schools and most of its charter school partners. The remote curriculm is part of an effort to protect teachers, students and their families from the coronavirus.
The district spent about $12 million for all students to receive a device for the school year. Students in grades Pre-K–2 will receive an iPad; students in grades 3-12 will receive a Chromebook. A wireless Internet device will be given to families who do not have home access.
This morning Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said the start of school is unprecedented but she is confident teachers and staff are ready to educate students remotely. Like other school districts, IPS is offering a more robust online curriculum than when school buildings closed in March due to the pandemic
"Success is: we get to Friday, our teachers and students know how to navigate those technology platforms," she said. "That we are able to make real time pivots to respond to whatever things are coming up. And that families, you know take a breathe -- 'we made it.'"
Schools around Central Indiana have reported cases of teachers and students testing positive for COVID-19. In response, some schools have temporarily closed or switched to remote learning -- changes that have forced students to alternate quickly between in-person and online classes.
Johnson said the district's decision to delay the start of school and open remotely allowed staff to focus on teaching.
"So there's power in people knowing this is the plan. You know, we're going to be in this plan for the next several weeks," she said. "So we can focus all of our energies and creating a great learning environment, versus sort of always waiting for the other shoe to possibly drop."
Last week, sites were announced where students could recieve free, all-day care while they access IPS e-learning. Johnson said talks are underway with community partners to offer simillar day-time care for working parents and caregivers who need supervision for their children.
"I imagine over the next couple of weeks, we'll have some more of those sites coming on board," she said. "So to the extent possible, we're working alongside other folks in the community to mitigate some of those concerns."
IPS is also providing physical space at school buildings for students who qualify for homeless assistance and physical and cognitive special needs.
The IPS School Board voted to not reopen school buildings for in-person learning no earlier than Oct. 2 and only if Marion County reports a 5 percent or lower COVID-19 positivity rate during a 14-day average.
Fort Wayne Community Schools opened last week and allowed families to choose in-person classes or remote learning. About 37 percent of the district's students chose the remote option, according to Superintendent Mark Daniel.