Coweta School System’s Empower Online Option
A total of 6,726 students have enrolled for the first semester of Coweta Schools’ Empower Online Program, as registration for the online option ended Friday, Aug. 7.
Ongoing registration is for students who intend to go through the entire first semester of online virtual education, and not for students who intend to return to face-to-face instruction.
All Coweta County School System student instruction will begin online August 13, due to rising COVID-19 transmission rates in the county. The school system plans to return to face-to-face instruction in county classrooms as early as September 8.
Parents who want their child to remain in online classes for the remainder of the first semester (through December) should register for Empower this week. Registration for a second semester of online instruction (starting January) will be held later in the fall.
Parents who plan to opt for face-to-face instruction when it restarts do not need to register their child.
“Our goal is to ensure a safe and healthy return to the classroom for our students, families and employees, and to reopen classrooms in a way that is both manageable and sustainable,” said Superintendent Evan Horton. “We know that most of our families want to return to their teachers in-person. We agree, and we are committed to that goal. As COVID-19 rates have increased over the summer, we are trying to accomplish that in both a safe and responsible manner.”
The Coweta County School System will continue to monitor COVID-19 activity in the community, and will consider several plans for resuming face-to-face instruction in September. Depending on health data and other information, these include consideration of various “hybrid” models which allow for half of a school’s student body to return on alternating days, or prioritizing younger grades and special needs students as students incrementally return in the fall.
Options will aim at a “phased” approach which responds to ongoing health concerns, but also allows more students to steadily return to face-to-face instruction. The system’s goal with the approach will be a full, daily return to in-classroom instruction while still allowing an online option for parents who choose that course.
Rising COVID-19 activity in Coweta County though July and into August posed significant risks and obstacles for a full return to school on August 13. Those included both increased health risks and the risk that the system would open schools only to be forced into school-by-school or system-wide re-closure.
“Reopening immediately for face-to-face instruction, despite increasing health concerns, would likely not have been a sustainable course,” said Horton. “This current situation is frustrating for everyone, but opening and then re-closing schools would be even more dispiriting. Our goal is to minimize that possibility while we build toward in-person instruction.”
After face-to-face resumes, Coweta’s Empower option will continue for those families registering for the option now. The school system is asking families to register for long-term online instruction now to ensure that the option remains adequately staffed even when face-to-face instruction resumes.
Empower is an online virtual learning environment for Kindergarten through twelfth grade Coweta County students. Following a July 30 decision by the Board of Education, all Coweta students will start the school year online because of significantly rising local transmission rates of COVID-19 throughout July. This daily teacher-led instruction will be delivered through Coweta County’s Empower platform, until community health conditions permit schools to reopen for face-to-face instruction for students.
Parents who intend for their child to return to face-to-face instruction, when available, do not need to sign up to receive start-of-year online instruction. Schools will communicate with parents about the August 13 start of school, online instruction, Chromebook distribution, and other matters during pre-planning, August 3-12.
Those parents who believe they will most likely prefer for their student to remain in online learning, even after students can return to face-to-face instruction, should register for Empower.
The school system is asking parents to commit to a full semester (through December 18) of online instruction if they register for this option. The school system intends to continue Empower into the second semester of 2020-21, and will provide all parents an opportunity to register for the second semester later this fall.
Students in the virtual option will remain enrolled in their base school. Students will remain eligible for school extracurricular activities, and can sign up for school announcements and activities.
Course assignments for high school students in the Empower program will be based on their course selections that were previously chosen last year. Students enrolled in the online option will also have access to school counselors who will continue to provide personalized support services.
The online format allows flexibility from time and location constraints to assist students, while assignment requirements are clearly communicated and monitored to support maximum academic success for each child. Some virtual classes will require virtual meetings with the expectations that students will be online and participate in classroom discussions and live lessons. Live lessons will be recorded and accessible for students.
Online material will be managed by Coweta teachers dedicated to the Empower program. Core curriculum and enrichment materials will be offered to provide a full school experience for participating students. The curriculum offered includes grade-specific Kindergarten through 12th grade courses, even allowing students to complete high school courses online in order to meet graduation requirements.
Parents can find the elementary, middle and high school curriculums on the Empower website Coweta’s online program will follow the Coweta County School System calendar, but will have a staggered start date. Official start dates will be communicated near the beginning of each semester to the students taking virtual courses. Opportunities for online orientation will also be communicated to registrants near the beginning of the school year on August 13.
Even if a student enrolls in the full-time virtual option, the student will still have full access to their base school’s facilities, activities and extracurriculars. To participate, students must meet all requirements set forth by each respective program. If a student is interested in extra-curricular activities, it will be important for the student and parents to sign up for base school announcements and check websites to know the timelines of the opportunities.