Two weeks into the return of our elementary school students to the classroom under the hybrid model approved by the state, at least some hallways and classrooms are again alive with the sounds of students engaged in learning. While still working out the bugs in the systems used, word from at least the elementary schools is that teachers are thrilled to be seeing their kids again, and those students in class are happy to be there.
The school district made alterations in procedures and implementation of the virtual learning and hybrid model currently being used by teachers and students. Changes were announced last week. The district was responding to concerns voiced in public input both at the last school board meeting and individually, as well the district’s ongoing evaluation.
Workload volume on students as well as its impact on their families and the teachers was one of the first things addressed. In consultation with all staff involved, a reduction in the weekly workload in Schoology, the main remote learning platform used was implemented for all grade levels. This is seen as temporary, until students and families are more comfortable with Schoology.
Other adjustments made included: Weekly assignment folders for each student for each subject area. Assignments will be posted to these on Mondays and not added to throughout the week. Also, the creation of a weekly assignment checklist for students and families to be able to organize and track their work as well as manage their time. The district has also ordered multi-content workbooks for students at the elementary level to take home for practice and enrichment on remote learning days. Those students already engaged in the hybrid model currently attend in-school classes two days a week.
In talking with school’s superintendent, Dr. Segura, we learned that everything the schools are doing is constantly under review with an eye to making it better meet the needs of students. “We share your frustration and understand how difficult all this is,” she said. “We urge parents or others with concerns to please contact us. Call or email or stop in. We are always working to address problems and looking at ways to improve. We are all trying to adapt to learning and using new technologies. This is not ideal. It is not sustainable over the long run. We are all trying to find ways to make it work better.”
To help families learn the Schoology system, she told us several measures were taken. Family training sessions in Schoology were scheduled over the last two weeks, with 20 or more attending each of the four Zoom Meetings. Each session included training and a question and answer period. Video of these, as well as other resources are available on the school district website. www.torcschools.net.
Other steps taken by the schools include a resource center in a designated room at each school where students or families can go to do work and receive assistance in navigating the systems used. The district also arranged for small group in-person parent Schoology training sessions. The first was held Tuesday, September 22, the second will be September 30, at T-or-C Middle School, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
On September 17 a child who attends Sierra Elementary Complex (SEC) tested positive for COVID-19. As soon as this was known, steps were taken and prodcedures in place were initiated to disinfect all effected areas, notify all who may have had close contact and to inform all schools’ staff. According to New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) and Public Education Department (PED) guidelines all who were in “close contact” must be tested seven to ten days after potential exposure, and those who staff or students who had close contact must self-quarantine at home for 14 days regardless of test results. Close contact is defined by NMDOH as being closer than six feet for more than three minutes. All areas of the school effected as well as buses have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. All best practices and guidance procedures were followed, and all individuals impacted were rapidly notified.
With now all students, pre-K through seventh grade all equipped with laptops or iPads o which to engage in virtual learning, the schools are awaiting the final shipment of laptops, which will go to grades 8-12. Ordered in the first week of July, inquiries about the status of this order are being made daily. At this time, the company supplying these machines is saying to expect the order to be shipped early in October.
Students who are awaiting that final shipment and do not have a laptop or other machine with which to access their work are urged to contact their school to arrange for a loaner. There are some older machines available.
This school year teachers, students, and all school staff as well as parents and families are facing unprecedented challenges. As with any new process, technology and system, there are always adjustments to be made and problems to be dealt with. The schools are asking everyone to remember to communicate, to be patient, and to do all that can be done to support our students.