NewsGetting Back to School


Breakthrough Public Schools gets creative with remote, out-of-home learning options

Posted at 2:30 PM, Aug 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-10 20:31:48-04

CLEVELAND — Candace Price knew that the only option for her 12-year-old son, Zion, to finish the 7th grade was through remote learning at home.

Cuyahoga County just had its first three cases and Zion’s Breakthrough Public School had sent all the students home, getting technology and internet connectivity for the students who didn’t already have them.

Zion and Candace are getting ready for a school year unlike any they've experience before.

But getting work done was another matter.

“Yeah, I do want to get up and stretch my legs, I do want to go play basketball, I think I do have to use the bathroom,’ all those distractions are kicking in,” Price said, referring to Zion’s attempt to complete his school work.

Zion is opting for Breakthrough Public Schools' remote, out-of-home learning option that will likely result in doing remote school work in a socially-distanced school building.

Those memories are front of mind for Zion and Candace as they figure out how to approach the upcoming school year, starting Sept. 8 at Breakthrough Public Schools while Candace could be called back into her office any day.

“Given that that opportunity to go back into the office is there, I am preparing for that because I know it could happen,” said Candace.

Empty classrooms could become remote learning centers where students can do school work outside their homes.

That’s why Zion is opting for a remote learning option that will likely still require him to come to one of Breakthrough Public School’s classroom as part of the school’s remote, out-of-home learning option.

“He understands that that interaction would be different,” said Candace. “He also knows that he learns best in that in-person environment.”

Breakthrough Public Schools focus on preparing students for college with homerooms decorated in the teacher's college colors and various college pennants and information scattered throughout the hallways.

“We have to serve parents who can’t stay home with their kids,” said Breakthrough Public Schools Founder and President of Friends of Breakthrough Schools John Zitzner.

Zitzner says it was clear after reaching out to Cleveland-area families that remote learning was going to cause problems for many of them. In many situations, grandparents or siblings would be left to stay home with students.

Zitzner says Breakthrough Public Schools is exploring hiring staff to supervise students who opt for the remote, out of home learning option because Breakthrough teachers will be teaching virtually full-time.

“Probably not the ideal situation for distance-learning especially in the fall when we have high expectations for a full day of school at home,” said Zitzner.

Instead, Zitzner says Breakthrough Schools is looking to bring in its own chaperones while teachers teach full-time online.

Lockers in schools across northeast Ohio will sit empty for at least the start of the school year while many schools begin the school year online.

When administrators know how many of the roughly 3,600 students prefer that option, they’ll finalize exactly where those remote learning centers will be.

“Safe places for scholars to go in a supervised, safe, distanced setting,” said Zitzner.

Sharpened pencils wait for the beginning of a digital school year.

It balances the safety that’s needed to stop the spread of the coronavirus with putting students in the best position to learn.

“Yes, it’s important we’re safe, but it’s also important that our students get caught up,” said Candace.

If your family is getting ready to start the school year online experts say:

  • Find a dedicated place for your student to do their work and try to keep distractions away
  • Breaks every few hours can make sure your student stays focused and healthy during a day of digital learning
  • Ask for help if you need it. Many school are expecting to have to help families through technical glitches and confusion.

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