Parents are trying to prepare how they will help their children for the remainder of the school year and are eager to hear how schools will provide instructional materials.
The big question among parents seemed to be how the schools would handle the digital divide. While most teachers maintain Google classrooms to teach lessons and assign material, some students in the Wiregrass do not have internet services or reliable access to technology.
Dothan City Schools Superintendent Phyllis Edwards addressed that in a news conference video sent to media outlets that will be available to parents later this week.
She said, essentially, teachers will be given some freedom to decide how they want to teach, but they will likely offer families a choice: paper packets or virtual learning.
“Some do have the capability to do virtual and some don’t,” she said. “At the elementary level, there will be paper packets. We may be able to do bus routes and have them at different stops or maybe some way like we do lunch for the grab-and-go.”
Homeroom teachers, principals and staffers will be contacting parents later this week and next to touch base and understand each family’s unique situation and what teaching mechanism would be best for them.
Houston County School teachers have responded to some parents’ inquires on Facebook, indicating that teachers with the district would do the same beginning next week, but they could not re-enter schools until April 13 to have access to resources like copiers for printing. The school system is on spring break.
Houston County School Superintendent David Sewell said he would be able to offer more information to parents Thursday.
Edwards said school districts are in the beginning stages of preparation after Gov. Kay Ivey’s announcement last week that schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The state is giving us guidelines, which is really where we are right now and they have instructed us to make our plan that would work for school system,” Edwards said.
The Alabama State Board of Education is telling schools to focus on “high-priority standards.”
“Of course, you’ll have to look at your delivery model because you don’t have the opportunity to do face to face, so that’s kind of clipped our wings a bit,” Edwards said. “So some of the lessons they’ll have to design will be different and look different.”
The school system recently signed a $300,000 deal to lease Chromebooks for students, but said it would have to pay at least another $500,000 to get one of the computers in each student’s hands, which is not something the central office is immediately considering. She noted that so far, the state is not offering financial assistance for distance learning.
Holly Driver, a Beverlye Intermediate School Spanish teacher, said her responsibilities are changing as auxiliary teachers move to help others, particularly with core subjects.
“My main thing is just going to helping other teachers,” she said. “Right now, I’ll be working in a support role and filling in the gaps and helping wherever I can.
“I can tell you I miss my students, and I know all the other teachers miss their students, and we look forward to seeing them again next year.”