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Altoona, Hollidaysburg plan for virtual learning

Altoona and Hollidaysburg Area School Districts won’t shift to full online learning while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but they are taking steps to keep students involved academically now that the closure of all Pennsylvania schools has been extended until at least April 6.

Paula Foreman, communication director for Altoona, said the district is working on a plan for students.

“Administrators, principals and teachers are (working) to put together a continual education plan for the students,” she said.

Foreman said the district will be using a Google classroom platform for the secondary students and learning packets for elementary students.

Foreman said the district is aware that not all families have an available internet connection and they are working on a solution so those without it can still be involved.

Foreman said Atlantic Broadband is offering free internet service to those who do not have it during this crisis.

“I talked to Atlantic Broadband about that and they are in fact offering it,” she said. “What we are doing is advising those families who don’t have internet to contact Atlantic Broadband or if there is another service out there, to get that process started as soon as possible.”

Foreman said plans for students should be finalized by the end of the week and parents will be notified.

“Our goal at this point is to enrich what the students have been learning and doing,” she said. “That is what the teachers are in the process of developing.”

At Hollidaysburg, teachers are preparing enrichment activities for the students for the remainder of the closure.

Superintendent Robert Gildea said they are preparing everything to be done online so students don’t have to go out to pick up materials.

“We are trying to minimize the requirement of anyone to leave their home,” he said.

Gildea said students in grades seven through 12 have school-issued chromebooks, but elementary students share devices left at school.

“This past weekend, our technology director issued a survey to all families to contact us if they had some limitations with devices or internet accessibility and we are currently trying to get those families some devices and also get them some assistance with their internet connection.”

Gildea said the district is working on an agreement with T-Mobile so they can provide families with an internet connection.

“We are looking at all possibilities in the hope we get everybody connected,” he said.

It has been two weeks since students have been in class and Hollidaysburg teachers showed how much they missed them by driving through neighborhoods on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday honking their horns.

“This is a big part of their lives and they love their kids,” Gildea said. “The teachers miss their kids as much as the kids miss their teachers. One of our goals with our online instruction is to do some live face-to-face time so that the kids get to see their teachers and hear their voices. It certainly is a void in both the teachers’ lives and the kids’ lives.”

Mirror Staff Writer Rick Boston is at 946-7535.

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