Educating 130 students from four different counties on a regular school day is a challenge but add in the corona virus quarantine and throw down might be the correct description.
It looks like Exeter-Milligan school district can check that box on their to do list.
Digital technology will be the key to continuing education which was obvious in a recent conversation with Superintendent Paul Sheffield, Principal Laura Kroll and elementary teachers Laura Steuben and Shelli Mueller via Zoom.
In order to use Zoom or another app the students use regularly called Canvas, each student has to have two things, an internet platform and a device to use it on. On Monday, March 16 all Exeter-Milligan students were sent home with their device, elementary students took home their IPad’s and 7-12 grade took home their Macbooks.
Sheffield confirmed that any household that did not have internet before this quarantine do have internet now.
“Our administration and school board have been forward thinking for so long,” added Mueller, “I can’t imagine doing this without them having their IPad’s at home. All the kids that don’t have access to all of this I can’t imagine.”
Elementary students were sent home with learning packets and will meet with their students via Zoom. Sheffield noted that for this first two weeks the teachers would focus on reading and math.
Mueller and Steuben both discussed different ways of creatively teaching some of their subjects.
Mueller, “found little videos to show how to review match concepts. We learned how to find the mean on Monday so I found a video on how to find mean. Thank goodness there are a lot of resources right now.”
Steuben talked about Epic, an online lending library, which is free for teachers and students. Teachers can see which books their students check out and read and she did have to warn a parent after a student checked out a book on how to prank your parents.
Mueller noted that elementary writing is going to be hard. “They can submit documents and we can fix them and send them back to them, but there’s not an easy way.”
Steuben thought that third grade math without using manipulatives would be a challenge.
The plan put forth for seventh through twelfth graders will include classroom meeting on zoom for each period once or twice a week. The district created a zoom schedule and will also deliver content electronically through their Learning Management System, Canvas, which allows them to upload study guides, homework and quizzes. They are trying to make sure that only one student per household is on zoom at a time so as not to tax the household internet service.
Teachers will log each zoom time on a spreadsheet to include the date, time and the participants for each zoom. Some classes are more project based, like Industrial Arts and Art and there will be less direct contact. Special Ed, Occupational Therapist and physical therapists will also make and document zoom visits.
In all of this uncertainty the district is very concerned with the mental health of the students and the teachers. “We are all learning together. I personally advise everyone to be patient and mindful.
Everyone’s situation is different. Do what you can do and control what you can control,” Kroll commented.
Mueller advised parents and students to find a routine and set up a schedule. “I have read it takes a couple of weeks to get into a routine.”
“I think our students are up for the challenge right now, it may not be the same after 6 or 8 weeks if it goes that far.”
“This is old hat for the kids,” added Sheffield.
Kroll hopes to keep in contact with both students and faculty. “We will still have staff meetings as needed. I still want to check in with my staff and maintain that connection with them.”
Some of the teachers are working remotely but others are coming to school and the administration is letting them do what is comfortable for them.
Kroll is also hoping to have some zoom sessions with the elementary students and will communicate with parents. On her list so far is reading to the students and also having a zoom knock knock joke session.
Another concern mentioned was feeding the students who regularly eat at school. “We have the backpack program weekly and at this time the plan is to deliver that to those who are involved in it,” explained Kroll.
Since this zoom interview the district has extended the closure to May 1 and will begin providing takeout breakfast and lunch at the regular cost. Other districts, like Fillmore Central, are providing just a lunch free of charge.