Educators Scramble To Keep Students Learning Amid Coronavirus Closures

Creating a response to coronavirus-related closures has become all-consuming for educators and administrators, who are trying to find a way for students to both learn and maintain the social services schools may provide.

As more U.S. colleges shut down campus each day in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the K-12 community is struggling to address the issues as well. Across the country, educators are being asked to create remote-learning plans for possible coronavirus-related school closures or adapt to an immediate closing of their schools.

At a charter school in the Atlanta Public School system, teachers are creating virtual lessons that will be accessed for students through Google Classrooms, according to library media specialist Andrea Tomlin, who created “a one-stop shop for digital educational resources for parents and students to use if needed.”

Tomlin also included a breakdown of topics by grade that can be used in conjunction with digital resources. The school is also planning to loan out Chromebooks to students who need them and offer virtual office hours so teachers can communicate with students and parents.

They are also considering ways to support students' social-emotional and food needs if school closes.

In New York state, educators at one elementary school have been asked to put plans into a shared folder by Friday. The “special area” teachers were asked to include activities that families can do together, according to the school’s librarian.

As always, librarians are also looking to each other, discussing obstacles and sharing possible solutions on Twitter and other networking platforms. A #FutureReady librarians Twitter chat led to a Wakelet of resources, curated by educational consultant Carl Hooker. Some edtech companies are doing their part, offering free support or access to impacted schools.

When the staff at Regis High School in New York City was told to come up with a plan for remote learning in the event of coronavirus-related school closure, librarian Diane Del Priore sought assistance from her colleagues on the Hudson Valley Library Association listserv.

She only received a handful of messages from colleagues saying they, too, were just getting started. Others asked listserv members to share what they learn.

“We’re kind of in the same place that everybody is with this virus; we’re groping our way through and trying to figure out what to do,” Del Priore says.

Unsure about the viability or effectiveness of long-term remote learning, Del Priore sees the current situation as a work in progress: You try something, learn from it, share the information, then try again, she says.

“Hopefully, we try again when it’s not an emergency, and we share that information,” she says. “We’re not going to figure it out in four days.”

Read: A Mini Clearinghouse on Coronavirus, Created by Two School Librarians
Schools Fight Misinformation and Fear As They Prepare for Possible Coronavirus Outbreak

St. Regis, an all-boys, all-scholarship private school, had its students take their textbooks while preparing for possible remote learning.

As for Del Priore, “My plan is to be available to the boys via email or by telephone during the school hours, and probably during a couple of hours in the evening, so I can help with any research questions or help them use our databases as they continue to work on their projects,” she says.

She remains “cautiously optimistic” that her school will not be forced to close, but knows the planning is important and hopes that it can be a learning opportunity for a future need.

“As a librarian, I trust that librarians will be generous in sharing their collective knowledge with each other,” she says. “I’m not cautiously optimistic about that; I am sure about it. That’s the way we’ve always operated, and I’m confident it will continue that way.”

Del Priore admits that while St. Regis isn’t a “rich school,” it doesn’t contend with the myriad issues a public school and district faces when contemplating shutting things down, even for a short period of time. Some places, of course, have already had to make that decision and create a plan with even more urgency as they try to find a way to continue education and meet the rest of the needs of their students. Public schools provide social services, food, and before- and after-school care for working parents. In California, the government issued a waiver through June 30, allowing any district that is already approved to distribute summer meals to provide meals to students during a school closure related to the virus.

In Scarsdale, NY, where a middle school teacher tested positive, closing the schools until March 18, the district is working to devise “distance learning options,” according to its public information officer, who says they hope to have a plan completed by the end of the week.

Less than 10 miles away in New Rochelle, NY, three schools have been caught in the “containment zone” set up by the state, which sent in the National Guard to help. Meanwhile, the district delivered Chromebooks to students who need them, as well as working with the state for funding and assistance in getting food to those who depend on the meal services provided by the school.

After a student tested positive at an elementary school in Avon, IN, administrators realized that student had contact with enough of the community to warrant closing the entire district for two weeks, the Avon Community School Corporation superintendent said in a press conference. The district instituted a hotline to help parents struggling with the e-learning system and made packets of information and assignments available for students who do not have internet access. They also have to-go meals that can be picked up at a couple of elementary schools for the families that rely on school breakfast and lunch programs. The plan is to have classes resume at school on April 6, which is the Monday after their spring break.

It's a fluid and anxiety-inducing situation for everyone and educators are being asked to find a workable solution for students during this public health crisis.

“These problems are really daunting, but together I really believe that whether it’s librarians or administrators, we can at least begin to figure out what is going to work best for our kids,” says Del Priore. “That is the most important thing.”

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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Pooja Singh

Hey Kara, thanks for this article and the motivation to conduct online classes for students. In the present situation, we can not use the conventional way of educating our children. I do agree with the view that teachers need to be available after the class also to help out the students doing research works.

Posted : Mar 25, 2020 11:24


Robert Pattinson

Great article to deal with coronavirus and keep the education system on alert. Kara, I really appreciate the idea of loaning out Chromebooks to students who need them and offer virtual office hours so teachers can communicate with students and parents. I hope for improvement in the near future. I would share these ideas with ISUSD for a better tomorrow.

Posted : Mar 12, 2020 02:30


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