OLYMPIA — The state Office of Financial Management (OFM) has earmarked $2.5 million in federal funds for the professional development of educators for the use of online learning management systems.

According to a recent press release out of Olympia, online learning: navigating the platforms; honing in on a single platform for consistent, district-wide use; and implementing best practices presented a major challenge for students, families, and educators during last spring’s transition to remote learning. 

“We heard consistently from educators that they needed more training on how to effectively use online learning management systems,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. “We also heard from students, parents, and guardians that they were overwhelmed by the variety of systems educators were using to provide online learning.”

Streamlining the system, Reykdal said, would make online learning more efficient this fall.

"Students and parents should be able to focus on learning, and educators should be focused on teaching, without the modality of the instruction getting in the way," he said. "Our ESDs (educational service districts) will provide educators with training in a handful of learning management systems consistent with the guidance we have already sent to districts to simplify their remote learning management systems for families."

The release went on to state Congress allocated approximately $195 million to Washington’s local school districts and $21 million to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to address impacts resulting from COVID-19. While all funds have been released to local school districts, OFM has held back the vast majority of the funds allocated to OSPI. The $2.5 million for professional learning represents the first major step in scalable statewide solutions to improve the online learning experience.

As OFM considers a release of the remainder of the state's portion of the funds, Reykdal said OSPI intends to cover the costs of the internet for students eligible for free or reduced-price meals and to partner with community-based organizations to help families secure childcare, engage in language translation services, and other parent and family engagement strategies.

"The funds provided by Congress for state education agencies were intended for statewide coordination, statewide strategies, and statewide scale in purchasing and training," Reykdal said. "I encourage OFM and the Legislature to release the remainder of the funds so we can provide additional and necessary supports for students, families, and schools as we prepare for perhaps the most complicated school year in American history."

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