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A student works at a laptop computer in a classroom at Crispus Attucks High School, a public school in Indianapolis, Indiana.

A student works at a laptop computer in a classroom at Crispus Attucks High School, a public school in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Alan Petersime for Chalkbeat

IPS unveils remote learning plans, including online lessons in high school and paper packets for younger students

Indianapolis Public Schools will begin remote learning on Thursday, April 9, after missing nearly two weeks of instruction.

When school resumes — following canceled days and a two-week spring break — the state’s largest district will rely on paper school work being mailed to elementary and middle school students. Teachers will also make videos and hold office hours, according to a video from Superintendent Aleesia Johnson posted Friday.

High school students, who must earn credits to graduate, will take courses online. District staff have been calling families to see whether high schoolers have access to devices and the internet at home. Starting next week, the district will send devices to students who need them, Johnson said.

IPS gathered more than 6,000 laptops from schools to distribute to high school students and middle school students in high school-level classes, according to a press release.

“This is a crisis unlike any we’ve ever had to navigate,” Johnson said in the video. “Please know we are taking all the measures we can to support our staff, our students, and our families.”

As classrooms across Indiana closed due to the coronavirus, some districts were able to swiftly shift to online instruction. In places where they routinely used e-learning for snow days, for example, there was already a model in place — although educators say long-term remote education is a new challenge.

A Chalkbeat analysis found that 30% of Indiana schools used an e-learning day last year, and wealthier schools were almost twice as likely to have taken advantage of online learning than those with high poverty rates.

But districts serving lower-income families and rural communities face significant technological barriers to online instruction because students may not have devices or access to the internet.

IPS has been running a technology access survey for families, but it has not yet released results. When schools closed three weeks ago, IPS officials estimated that about half of students were prepared for online learning at home.

That’s a sharp contrast with some suburban Indianapolis districts where students as young as kindergarten all have devices issued or required by the school system. And some township districts with large populations of students from low-income families have been able to provide devices to many children.

Schools across Indiana will be closed for the remainder of the academic year, State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick announced Thursday.