Area school districts are exploring ways to reach students while campuses remain closed during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The College Station school district rolled out its first day of at-home learning Monday with a website that includes resources for students and parents in each grade level and subject, including fine arts and physical education. The site also has book recommendations from district librarians and printable packets.
The packets and resources were developed by the district curriculum and instruction team, school administrators and teacher leaders, Pebble Creek Elementary School Principal Blaire Grande said.
Schoology, an online platform that middle school and high school students have been using throughout the school year, is similar to Facebook, with a feed from teachers and class-specific discussions. There are also conference and messaging features to help students grasp the topics.
Grande encouraged parents to be patient because teachers and students are both transitioning to a new way of teaching and learning.
The at-home learning website has information for all grades, but it was set up especially for use at the elementary level because those students do not use Schoology like the secondary students.
Right now, the information being presented to students are review concepts of topics and the work is not being graded, College Station Interim Superintendent Mike Martindale said Monday.
“We’ll assess that as we move forward,” he said. “At what point do we begin including new concepts in this process? At what point we begin to assign grades to this? Those are things that we will evaluate along the road as we move forward.”
In addition to the high-tech learning, there are also low-tech options for families who do not have internet access or a device to access the internet. Those printed packets are available to be picked up at the schools.
This first week, Martindale said, will be used to assess how well the district is reaching students and which outlet – Schoology, printed packets or the at-home learning website – is most effective.
“Trying to assign value to something at this point in time, I think would be unfair to our students and our families,” he said. “We need to make sure we have a system that has the most integrity before we begin assigning value.”
The best way for parents who need help to assist their students, especially in high school and honors or AP designated courses, is to contact their student’s teacher via email or through Schoology, Grande and College Station High School Principal Tiffany Parkerson said.
“I think that parents also need to know that they don’t have to have all the answers,” Parkerson said. “There are lots of resources out there, and their students’ teachers would be happy to help them with that.”
All of the resources and links are available through the College Station school district’s website.
Bryan also will begin using Schoology to administer at-home education, according to the district’s COVID-19 website. The site says the district is working on creating lessons that will focus on core subject areas initially.
During an emergency meeting on March 17, Bryan Superintendent Christie Whitbeck and Executive Director of Technology Services Julea Johnson outlined the district’s plan to make the district’s Chromebooks available to students who did not have access to an internet-connected device. They also are looking at boosting each school’s internet signal to reach neighborhoods. Suddenlink and Altice USA offered free broadband internet for 60 days to households with a school-age or college student in the Bryan school district boundaries.
The district had a survey to determine families’ needs in the district and, as of Monday, had distributed about 1,000 Chromebooks for students to use during the district’s closure.
The district’s COVID-19 page also has optional online and offline activities for students and parents to explore.
The Navasota school district is looking at online learning options that are already established in the district for students in kindergarten through high school and also Edgenuity, which is set up for high school students. Packets of lessons and activities will also be available.
“Please know we understand that each situation is different,” Navasota Superintendent Stu Musick wrote in a letter to parents. “If you have several children, you may not be able to get each child online for the suggested time: that’s okay! You may also have a child who wants to spend more time on a program: that’s great, too.”
The instructional materials are available through the district’s website at bit.ly/navasotaisdathomelearning2020.
The Hearne school district has packets available for students to use when they pick up lunch. The packets, which cover a week of core subject material, are available every Tuesday during the lunch pickup. The material is also posted online to Google Classroom and ClassDojo for students to utilize if they have internet access.
Resources are also available on the district’s website.
At Allen Academy in Bryan, students moved to distance learning Monday and will continue until at least April 12. Science teacher Stephanie Hanover said students in fifth grade through high school are required to have laptops, and teachers in the lower grades are working with parents to make sure students have access to videos, worksheets and other learning resources for each subject, including physical education, with coaches sending home workouts for students to do.
In an email, Hanover and English teacher Elizabeth Martin said, “Distance learning will be hard because we miss our students, but we are well-equipped to continue teaching and learning even from a distance.”
The relationships the teachers have help them tailor the situation to each student.
With her eighth grade Earth and space science students who are studying astronomy, Hanover said, “There are wonderful opportunities to continue to explore the night sky from home and using remote telescopes. They are reading The Martian as a cross-curricular with English class where they will reflect through written work as well as use NASA software to track and analyze Mark Watney’s journey across the red planet as well as research and report on the science (or lack of) behind many of the situations in the book.”
For many students, the transition to at-home education also means not being around their classmates.
“We have a tremendous opportunity right now to use all of our access to technology for good,” Parkerson said. “You know, so much of what we dealt with in a regular school setting is technology being a distraction, and I think right now technologies are a pipeline, our way that we can connect with one another, so I encourage our students to use it well, reach out, make those group FaceTime calls.”