Photo: Center School District personnel went to extremes to safely distribute 700 Chromebooks for students in 4th to 8th grades. Photo Center School District
Public schools step up to challenge of remote learning
By John Sharp
Since public school districts operating in south Kansas City had already been using remote learning systems due to the order of KCMO Mayor Quinton Lucas banning in-person classroom-based instruction through April 24, Governor Mike Parson’s April 9 order closing Missouri schools for the remainder of the school year did not catch them unprepared.
However, that does not mean that districts don’t face challenges on effectively implementing remote learning, particularly for students who don’t have home internet access, and making meals easily accessible for all the students who need them.
And questions still have to be answered including whether school districts will be allowed to conduct classroom-based summer school and how high school graduation ceremonies will be handled if or when they are allowed.
Dr. Margie Vandeven, commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education (DESE) which recommended the extended closure, said when it was announced, “We know remote teaching and learning looks different in every district across our state so we are simply asking our school leaders to continue to be creative, innovative and persistent in their pursuit to reach students with some kind of academic opportunity.”
Following is a summary of how school districts serving Grandview and major portions of south Kansas City are responding to the extended closure.
The Center School District sent laptops home with its high school students prior to spring break and distributed 700 to students in the 4th through 8th grades.
Students in 4th-12th grades can utilize Google Classroom for lessons.
The district also was able to connect some families to home internet.
Instructional packets for students in pre-kindergarten through the 3rd grade were prepared by teachers and distributed by email and in paper form and available on the district’s website .
Since school staff realized many of these younger students lacked basic supplies such as notebooks to complete their assignments, the Center Education Foundation quickly raised over $3,000 to purchase the supplies.
Sack meals may be picked up by students or by their parents or guardians (whether or not students accompany them) from 11 to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday at all the district’s elementary schools.
“We will continue to do all we can to meet students’ academic, social and emotional needs as best we can,” said Dr. Michael Weishaar, Center interim superintendent.
For now, summer school is still scheduled for June 1-25. The district plans to celebrate high school graduation in some manner later this year when it can be done safely.
All Grandview High School students had laptops, and laptops were checked out to 6th-8th graders to facilitate remote learning.
Lessons and assignments for 6th-12th graders are created by their teachers and posted online through Google Classroom. High school students are used to emailing their teachers, said Grandview Superintendent Dr. Kenny Rodrequez, but now they also are video chatting with them.
Assignments for pre-kindergarten through 5th grade students are posted through Facebook groups. Packets of instructional materials are provided for students without home internet service, and their teachers call periodically to check on them.
The district has a comprehensive meal program for all children in the community which delivers breakfast and lunch to numerous neighborhood sites Monday-Friday and allows breakfast and lunch to be picked up from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. on those days at all of its elementary schools and at Martin City K-8 School and Grandview High School. Over 1,000 meals a day are provided through the program.
The district has postponed summer school enrollment and is examining multiple scenarios for safely celebrating high school graduation at a later date.
The Hickman Mills School District sent iPads home with kindergarten-8th grade students before spring break and high school students were previously allowed to take home MacBooks and chargers. Dr. Carl Skinner, interim superintendent, said all but about 60 now have been distributed.
Lessons and instructions are provided through Google Classroom.
Teachers are available to interact with students and their parents during normal school hours Monday-Friday. Elementary teachers are available online on those days from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. and from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m., and middle and high school teachers are available online from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. and from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Families without home internet connectivity may call the district at 816-316-7000 to obtain printed instructional packets or to get a list of internet providers that are providing low or reduced cost service.
Skinner said the district has touched base with the families of almost all of its approximately 5,600 students and is still trying to contact about 200 families it hasn’t reached about its remote learning program.
The district’s meal program delivers sack meals with enough breakfast and lunch items to last two or three days that can be picked up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday at all its elementary schools and at Ruskin High School and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on those days at Johnson Elementary School which is now closed.
Skinner said the district is planning to offer virtual summer school if it’s approved by DESE and plans to recognize this year’s graduating seniors in a safe manner later this summer.