Adapting to the
As nearly everyone – school administrators, teachers and parents – is discovering, teaching students when schools are closed is an unprecedented challenge. Covid-19 has emptied classrooms, and it is uncertain when things will return to normal. Like other Oregon schools, we have grappled with how best to carry out our mission in the context of the constraints imposed by the pandemic. In their efforts to provide an alternative to in-class instruction, PPS and many private schools are developing programs that rely on the fact that most of their students’ families are equipped with computers or other wireless devices that enable online learning.
In contrast to those students, few of the children who attend CTS have access to the Internet, except on their parents’ minute-based cell phones. Since students can’t come to school, we have developed a plan to bring school to our students wherever they live. Instead of online programs, we are using school staff and our buses to deliver printed assignments prepared by their teachers and pick up their completed work twice a day, five days a week, when we deliver breakfast and lunch. To maintain personal contact, teachers hold weekly phone conferences with students and their parents, and for those who are having difficulty, such as when new math skills are taught, teachers ride the buses to meet with students (wearing masks and maintaining social distance) face to face. For Pre-K/Kindergarten students, we are sending home puzzles, games and other activities their parents can use to help prepare them for the 3 Rs and reinforce the social lessons that are part of their daily curriculum when school is in session.
Despite these modifications to our program, enrollment has been typical. Sixty-five students were enrolled at the end of the first week, and as the year progresses we anticipate that the number will approach our average annual enrollment for the past several years. Consequently, we anticipate that this effort, in particular the transportation component, will be no less costly than our transportation program during a normal school year.
CTS submitted its Ready Schools, Safe Learners plan to the Oregon Department of Education and the LPHA. This is our plan if schools are allowed to have on-site or in-building schooling. For more information on Covid-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control's website.
To quote their website, "ClassDojo connects teachers with students and parents to build amazing classroom communities." It seems a natural fit for us. We're utilizing this app to reach the students that have the capability to use it on a smart device or computer.
Tools to adapt
Teaching on ClassDojo
ClassDojo is a great resource, but the truth is most of our students don't have access to smartphones or wireless data plans that allow them to participate. And like many things with CTS, we have found that one size does not fit all. We're finding that we can work with the students over the phone, and if need be bring their parents into discussion. It's a way for our teachers to gauge how the kids are dealing with the lessons that isn't always possible through assignments or online learning.
Teaching over the Phone
Teaching on the Stoop
Beyond technology, our students are facing many other obstacles while distance-learning: for some English is their second-language; for some they don't have help at home; for some they are learning new subjects; and for some learning outside of in-person school has been very difficult. We're making an effort to help these students who are at risk of disengaging and falling through the cracks by meeting with them face-to-face outside of where they are staying. Thus, Teaching on the Stoop (and of course, wearing masks and maintaining social distance).