North Hills School District News Article

North Hills moves forward with plan to implement Flexible Instructional Days

Posted Friday, October 4, 2019
The North Hills Board of Education discusses the state’s new Flexible Instructional Day (FID) program at its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019.

PITTSBURGH -- The North Hills Board of Education approved the district’s application to participate in the state’s new Flexible Instructional Day program at its meeting Thursday night.

Acceptance into the program would allow North Hills School District to use a Flexible Instructional Day (FID) in place of a snow day or other unplanned school closure. Students would perform classwork at home, the day would count as a school day and a make-up day would not be required. Under the state program, districts can use up to five flex days per school year.

All lesson plans will be built in advance. Students would be required to logon to a website to access class assignments for the day. Assignments would be due seven days from the FID.

Superintendent Dr. Patrick J. Mannarino said the seven-day window is for various reasons including to account for a power or internet outage, or if a family does not have internet or more than one computer for multiple children. It would also give students the opportunity to ask questions and talk to their teacher if they don’t understand something.

Currently, students in grades 5-11 have district-issued iPads on which they can complete the assignments, and beginning next school year, students in grades 5-12 will have iPads.

Included in North Hills’ application are sample FID lesson plans: Grade 1 ELA, Grade 11 American Literature, Grade 5 Mathematics, Grade 7-11 Algebra I and Grade 9 Biology 

District administrators are working with curriculum leaders to develop additional lesson plans for each subject area at each grade level, and teachers will use their upcoming professional development day on Monday, Oct. 14, to build and complete the lessons based on recommendations by the state Department of Education.

“This is going to be quality instruction,” said Dr. Mannarino. “I don’t want to have any wasted days in education. I’m looking for these to be quality instruction or we’re not going to do them.”

Assuming the state accepts the district’s application, flex days could be implemented as soon as this school year although that doesn’t mean the district will use all or any of them.

“I don’t know that we’ll be able to use [FIDs] this year,” said Dr. Mannarino. “I’m hopeful that we can, but we’re just starting the process of [asking] what these look like for our teachers and how are they going to build them.”

Area school districts including Seneca Valley and Elizabeth Forward participated in the state’s FID program last year with success, and North Hills is also looking at their plans for guidance and feedback into what worked and what didn’t.

What's the benefit of a FID?
Flexible instructional days count toward the number of instructional days/hours required under Article 15 of the Public School Code and Chapter 11 of the state Board of Education regulations so a make-up day is not required. As a result, spring break will not be shortened or the school year lengthened to accommodate make-up days. Flex days also keep students in the mode of learning; there’s no interruption by a missed day of school.

What will a typical FID look like for students?
The lessons and activities will be fair representations of the instruction the student would’ve received in the classroom. Secondary students will go through their schedule just like they would at school. The lessons will be class period-based, and students will be assigned work for each class period.

At the middle and high schools, most teachers are already using Google Classroom making the implementation of FIDs essentially seamless. It will also allow teachers to adjust lessons based on what was scheduled to be learned in the classroom that day.

Elementary plans will likely be more “stand alone” and not necessary what would’ve been taught in school that day. Students will have a flexible instructional lesson for each of the four main subjects (ELA, math, science and social studies) and an activity for the special (art, computers, library, music and PE) they would’ve had that day. Parents and students should plan for about 40 to 60 minutes for each.

Do students need to “log in” on the FID to be counted as present?
No. As long as the assignment is completed and turned in within the seven day window, the day will count for that student.

How will FIDs work for students with special needs or who need additional support?
Teachers will be available to students on flexible instructional days by phone and via email. The seven-day window to complete the assignment will also allow the student to ask questions and get help at a later day in order to complete the assignment on time.

How will the flexible instructional day plan and instructions for assignments be communicated to parents?
If approved, detailed information will be released to families. The district will post step-by-step instructions on how to access the lessons and activities for each student online at nhsd.net. Information will also be shared via email, social media and the district app. Meetings and/or demonstrations for families will be planned and held as necessary.

Watch the school board’s discussion about the program and approval of the district’s FID application here.

The state will review North Hills’ application and the district should know whether the application was accepted by November.

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