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Jackson schools reveal online instruction program

The Jackson R-2 School District announced its plan for online learning for the upcoming school year. Ignite Online, the District’s new online program, will allow students K-12 to learn virtually while the COVID-19 pandemic is a concern.

Families had to complete a brief application by Monday morning to participate in the program. Enrolled families had to commit to the program for at least the first semester of next year and are required to provide reliable Internet access for their students.

“We are going to run two schools,” Superintendent Dr. John Link said at the School Board meeting on July 14. “We are going to have Jackson R-2 on campus and we are going to have Ignite Online, which is going to be our E-school.”

Link said the online and on-campus programs will work together in the fall, as students may go back and forth between the two if they get sick or have to quarantine. The District has said that virtual instruction will be used for all on-campus students if a temporary COVID-related shut down occurs.

“We are planning for the teachers who are teaching online and on-campus will work 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Link said. “The virtual teachers will work during the school day like the rest of the teachers.”

Students enrolled in Ignite Online will be expected to engage in learning during the normal school day and will recorded for attendance. Students will have whole class and small group learning led by a teacher, as well as independent assignments they are responsible for completing.

Elementary students who participate will have to have family support and supervision while online, as well as have an on-campus assessment to determine the student’s literacy needs.

Students who don’t meet the Ignite Online requirements or struggle academically online will be required to meet in-person with a school administrator and may be reassigned to on-campus learning. “We don’t want to lose any kids,” Link said. “We have safety nets for those kids who are not doing their work.”

Link said elementary teachers who teach the online classes will probably do that full-time, but secondary teachers may teach some hours in-person and some online.

Throughout the District, all teachers will be on campus to make sure they collaborate. “I want the online teachers and the on-campus teachers to respect each other and to realize that both are working very hard,” Link said.

Link said the District chose to move forward with this option instead of choosing an outside virtual learning program, as he thought students may not learn as much from such a program. “We have great teachers and our kids will get a whole lot better education, even off campus, if it’s being taught by our teachers,” he said.

While there are still several unanswered questions, Link said he has confirmed with Missouri State High School Activities Association that Ignite Online students will be able to take part in school activities and sports.

He added that there will be similar requirements as usual to participate in these activities, such as turning in assignments and having above a certain grade level.

Link said he is excited about the program and the changes that will come in the future due to the work they are putting into Ignite Online now.

“We pray at some point there will be a vaccine and most of those kids will come back to on-campus learning, but it does open up opportunities for kids who can’t get into certain schedules to be able to have an online class in the future,” Link said.

In other action

• During the School Board meeting on July 14, Associate Superintendent Dr. Keenan Kinder said the construction at the junior high is on schedule, and that the first phase of the construction will be ready by the first week in August.

The first phase of the $5 million project, constructed by Brockmiller Construction, includes a new entrance vestibule, the move of the counselor’s offices, new restrooms and improvements to the cafeteria entrance. Kinder said the new counselor suite was being painted the day of the School Board meeting.

The expansion of the junior high includes a new band classroom and library, The existing band and library will be renovated to create an expanded choir room, new special education classrooms, new art classrooms and expand the existing cafeteria. These changes are expected to be completed summer 2021.

“The outside walls of the band and the library/media center are coming up,” Kinder said. “They only had a few weather days since our last construction meeting, so they are progressing really well.”

• The School Board approved changes to the policies concerning short-term leaves for professional staff members and support staff leaves. The changes to both polices raised the maximum number of personal leave days per year from two days to four days. Any unused personal leave days at the end of a school year will carry over as sick leave for the following year.

Associate Superintendent Jessica Maxwell said the change to the number of personal days was changed last year, but had not been updated in the board policies.

• Director of Finance Terry Gibson said he has calculated just over $1 million in state cuts for the month of June, following $500,000 in cuts in May. He said they had not received information on the July cuts at the time of the meeting, but that the District had already built in these reductions into the 2020-2021 budget.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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