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MPS Online School - Family FAQ

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May 6, 2021

Table of contents:

Introduction

Basic Information

School Schedule

Coursework

Student Support

Afterschool Opportunities

Profile of an Online Learner

Introduction

Beginning in September 2021, MPS is launching its MPS Online School for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. While an online school option has been available for high school students for many years, with the changes to teaching and learning brought on by the pandemic, MPS wants to ensure that an online option is available to a broader range of students. Many students thrive with online learning. 

MPS Online School will also be the best option for students and families if COVID-19 is still significantly present in our community next school year and they would prefer to participate in distance learning rather than in-person learning. However, unlike how we currently provide students with the option to switch back and forth to in-person learning and distance learning, students who choose MPS Online School for next year will need to stay online because they lose their seats in their original community or magnet school. If families change their mind about the online school, they will need to request a new school through MPS’s school request process.

That’s because MPS Online School is like any other school with a community of students, teachers, counselors, social workers and other support staff. 

See K-12 course descriptions here.

Students who enroll in MPS Online School will receive additional information before the start of the new school year. MPS Online School will include a toolkit that parents/caregivers can access to be best prepared for the beginning of the school year.

Basic Information

1. Does every MPS student who applies get into MPS Online School?

All general education and Special Education Federal Settings I and II school requests will be accepted. As this expanded version of MPS Online is new and interest is currently unknown, requests will be monitored closely in case staffing or acceptance rates need to be adjusted. Students placements for Federal Setting III would need to go through the Special Education Department--families should work with their case worker to look into whether their student is able to attend MPS Online School.  

2. Will students be immediately notified of acceptance once they register?

Yes. Once families complete the school request process online, they will receive an automatic email reply that will include instructions on how to complete the school registration process and related paperwork. Families also have the option to complete the school request and registration process through a paper form and mail; contact Student Placement to get a form mailed to you: 612.668.1840 or SPS.Department@mpls.k12.mn.us.

3. If a student wants to enroll in “distance learning” to begin the year, should the student enroll in MPS Online School?

Yes. There is no other distance learning option at this time; however, as the new school year approaches, we will assess infection rates accordingly and reassess distance learning options as needed. Note: Once a student is enrolled in MPS Online School, they will lose their seat in their previous MPS school. 

4. Do students who receive free-and-reduced-price lunch (FRL) receive meals in MPS Online School?

Yes, meals are available for students who qualify for FRL. Students will receive five days worth of meals and notified of pick-up times and locations.

5. Will there be a principal for MPS Online School?

Yes, MPS Online School will have a full-time licensed school principal.

6. Can students take some classes through MPS Online School but also attend their assigned school in person?

Yes. Students in grades 9-12 can supplement their course options by also taking courses through MPS Online School. Students need to work with their high school counselor to make these arrangements. 

7. Can a student enroll in MPS Online School for a few weeks if they are going to be absent from school due to being out of town? What if the student is going overseas for an extended period of time?

No. If a student needs to be absent from their assigned school, families should contact the school about the upcoming absence to determine the best way for the student to keep up with their lessons while they are away.

For students traveling overseas for an extended period, MPS Online School may be a good fit to meet their educational needs as long as the student will be moving back to Minnesota before the end of the school year. However, the student will need to be enrolled in MPS Online School full time and not be attending another school overseas at the same time. 

8. May students receiving Special Education enroll in MPS Online School? 

MPS Online School offers Special Education services for a continuum of student needs. There are Special Education services for students who spend most of their time in general education and for those that need the support of a Special Education setting. Special Education support could be available in the general education class or could be offered in a Special Education class online. Students might receive the support of a special education assistant or be in an one on one direct instruction online class.

There will be a part time school social worker supporting students in MPS Online School. The school social worker, along with a site-based mental health team, will be available to provide mental health support to students, as well as consultation to staff and families. This mental health team (school social worker, school counselor, school psychologist, nurse and a district mental health support specialist) will support students in the online learning program. This team will offer support at various levels such as classroom support, group support and individual support, as needed and as available. 

9. Can English Learner students enroll in MPS Online School? 

Yes. MPS Online School will be hiring ESL teachers to serve the grades K-12. Additionally, bilingual support staff will also be available to support students. 

10. Can a student enroll in MPS Online School if they have been suspended, have an administrative transfer, or are homebound?

Students who are absent from their school for disciplinary reasons will be provided learning alternatives through their school rather than MPS Online School. If students want to permanently un-enroll from their school, they may then go through the enrollment and registration process to attend MPS Online School permanently.

Students who are homebound may attend MPS Online School as long as they have a Federal I or II Special Education IEP; see question 8 for more details. 

11. Can a student from outside MPS enroll in MPS Online School?

Yes. Through open enrollment, any student can enroll in MPS Online School.

12. Which school will students graduate from? If a student participates in athletics at the high school in their attendance zone, will they have the option to graduate and walk in the ceremony from that school rather than MPS Online School? 

Students will graduate from MPS Online School and participate in its graduation ceremony.

School Schedule

13. Will MPS Online School follow the same District calendar?

Yes.

14. What time will school start for students?

The school day is from 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. Morning meeting will be at 8 a.m. for grades K-5. Students will be expected to be online at specified times per their communicated daily schedule from their teacher.

15. What will an elementary school student’s schedule look like?  Will there be real time (synchronous) time with the teacher every day?

Student attendance will be taken during the virtual morning meeting. Classes will be offered for both in real time (synchronous ) and self-directed (asynchronous) throughout the day. 

16. What will a middle school student’s schedule look like? Will there be real time (synchronous) time with the teacher every day?

Middle school students will learn in a blended learning environment where both real time (synchronous) and self-directed (asynchronous) work will create a flexible learning environment for students. Teachers will host weekly advisory meetings to connect with students' social-emotional learning. Teachers will meet with students in real time throughout the week. This may be in the form of three or four formal lessons, along with office hours, individual student meetings or small group lessons, and hands-on learning. 

17. What will a high school student’s schedule look like? Will there be real time (synchronous) time with the teacher every day?

High school students will learn in a self-directed (asynchronous) learning environment that will be paced throughout the quarter for students so teachers can monitor their progress. Teachers will host daily office hours and support student learning through labs, small group lessons, and individual student meetings.

18. Will there be any field trips or learning outside of the student attending virtually?

Yes, there will be opportunities for both in-person and virtual field trips and class activities.

19. Will students and families ever meet their teacher(s) face-to-face or will all interactions be virtual?

Students and families will have the opportunity to meet their teacher face-to-face during orientation, class and school events, and learning support sessions/labs.

Coursework

20. Will MPS Online School offer all the same courses as other MPS high schools?

Yes, MPS Online School will offer all courses needed for graduation, including AP courses, languages, CTE and PSEO opportunities. A complete course catalog will be found on the MPS Online website soon.

21. Will a student be able to take advanced placement (AP) academic coursework?

High school students will be able to participate in AP English, AP Math, AP Science and AP Social Studies.

22. Will the BLACK class through the Office of Black Student Achievement be available?

Yes, both the “Kings” and “Queens” class will be offered.

23. Will there be world language courses available and for which grades?

Japanese, Ojibwe and Dakota will be offered for students in grades 9-12.

24. Will high school students be able to be enrolled in Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO)?

Yes, MPS Online School counselors will work with students to support them in all PSEO opportunities and other post-secondary planning.

Student Support

25. What types of supports will be available if my student is finding a class challenging?

MPS Online School staff provide individualized and small group student support. Lessons will be recorded for students to review content at their own pace. Teachers will work with students and caregivers to create a support plan to ensure student success.

26. Will mental health services be available?

Yes, mental health services will be provided by a school social worker. This school social worker, along with a site-based mental health team, will be available to provide mental health support to students, as well as consultation to staff and families.

27. Will devices and hotspots be provided to students who have the need?

Yes, if a student does not have their own device they will either receive an iPad (grades K-2) or Chromebook (grades 3-12) while they are in MPS Online School. Families should plan to get internet access; some low-cost options are available through Internet Essentials; hotspots through MPS will be available for those students who are unable to get their own internet access.

28. Will there be technology support? 

MPS Online School has dedicated staff who will be on call as a tech support line during the school day. Support is also available for Hmong, Somali and Spanish speaking families. 

29. Will there be parent-teacher conferences?

Yes, just like any other school, there will be parent-teacher conferences and other school-wide events.

30. What will be the family’s responsibility with their online learner?

Families play an important role in supporting students in an online environment. Families are expected to be present and monitor their students during the learning day. Family support shows that the students' learning is a top priority and helps students succeed. When students participate in real-time (synchronous) online learning with their teacher, families can support their student by being present to help supervise, providing a space that is free from distractions, including other family members being on camera. Families are also asked to not take pictures or video during the real time (synchronous) learning session.

Family and student orientation will be provided at the beginning of the year, and parent support groups will be offered throughout the year. The parent support sessions will be hosted in person and virtually, and hosted by MPS support staff and teachers. It will provide caregivers an opportunity to learn, ask questions, connect with MPS Online School staff, and other caregivers and parents of MPS Online School students. Orientation topics and year-long support include:

  • Student schedule and establishing a routine for success.
  • Setting up a workspace and organization strategies.
  • Getting to know the online platforms.
  • Ways to communicate with teachers.

MPS Online School is recommending that at the elementary level, families provide a high level of support and oversight. Families help set the schedule for providing breaks, snacks and meals, as well as monitor their student’s progress throughout the day and communicate with the teacher often.

MPS Online School is recommending that at the middle school level, family oversight varies based on their student’s needs and progress. Families should be present every day and keep an eye on their student’s progress, grades and support student-teacher communication. 

Afterschool Opportunities

31. Can MPS Online School students participate in athletics?

MPS Online School students are eligible to play sports at their assigned community school if the student meets the academic requirements. All students are required to provide their own transportation to and from practice. However, MPS will provide transportation to students to and from schools for away games and competitions.

32. What afterschool programs are available to MPS Online School students?

MPS Online School students may participate in afterschool programs at their assigned community school. The student must be registered through afterschool programming such as ALC and/or MPS Community Education.

33. How does a student find out what their assigned community school is so they know which school they can participate in athletics and afterschool programs?

Families should contact Student Placement Services to find out what their assigned community school or use the School Finder in the blue box at the top of this page to look up the school based on the student’s home address. 

Profile of an Online Learner

34. How can families decide if MPS Online School is the right choice for their student?

To decide if MPS Online School is a good fit for their student, families should review the following Profile of an Online Learner.

Students learn in a variety of ways. MPS students have had an opportunity to learn and develop skills in technology devices, software and virtual learning skills through district-wide distance learning. MPS Online School is a great opportunity for certain students to continue their  K-12 academic progress through a learning model that best suits their learning styles. 

Before making a decision on the best learning model for them, students and parents should review the descriptions of an online learner below and think about whether an online learning model would be best for them:

Grades K-3

  • I am choosing an online learning model because my learning style better matches a virtual learning environment.
  • I know my online class may have different challenges than in-person classes because of the virtual environment.
  • I am self-motivated and can give solid attention to complete tasks and projects.
  • I am able to follow directions well and will ask questions when I need clarification.
  • I like to get things done today and not wait until tomorrow.
  • I do not give up easily, even when confronted with obstacles.
  • I will not miss daily in-person interaction with my instructor and classmates and have other opportunities for socialization.
  • I am comfortable spending at least 6 hours per day dedicated to my online class that includes daily synchronous (real time) participation with my teacher and time to complete assignments that may include watching videos and engaging in learning platforms such as Lexia, Dreambox, iStation etc.
  • I have or am willing to learn reading strategies that can help me get through difficult texts and/or am willing to reach out to my teacher to support my reading comprehension.
  • I have basic computer skills and can use word processing software, download software, install software, use a web browser, etc.
  • I have access to a computer that is connected to the Internet and have a backup plan if something happens to my computer.
  • I am comfortable in a "virtual environment" and using Seesaw and/or Google Classroom platforms.

Grades 4-12

  • I am choosing an online learning model because my learning style better matches a virtual learning environment.
  • I know my online classes may have different challenges than in-person classes because of the virtual environment.
  • I am self-motivated and can give solid attention to complete tasks and projects.
  • I am able to work independently with little direction. 
  • I have good time-management skills that allow me to schedule specific times throughout the week to work on my online course(s).
  • I can adequately prepare and study for assessments.
  • I can effectively communicate any questions or concerns to my instructor.
  • I am comfortable expressing myself in writing. 
  • I like to get things done today and not tomorrow.
  • I will not miss daily in-person interaction with my teacher and classmates and have other opportunities for socialization.
  • I do not give up easily, even when confronted with obstacles.
  • I am comfortable spending at least 6 hours per day dedicated to my online coursework that includes daily synchronous (real time) participation with course instructor(s), time to review course lectures/videos, time to complete course assignments, time to participate in chats and threaded discussions, etc. 
  • I agree that online courses can be more challenging than in-person classes.
  • I have or am willing to learn reading strategies that can help me get through difficult texts and/or am willing to reach out to staff to support my reading comprehension.
  • I have basic computer skills and can use word processing software, download software, install software, use a web browser, etc.
  • I have access to a computer that is connected to the Internet and have a backup plan if something happens to my computer.
  • I am comfortable in a "virtual environment," email, sending attachments, threaded discussions, chat rooms, etc.

Adapted from https://www.fairmontstate.edu/academics/distancelearning/successful-student