All public school districts in Missouri are now doing some form of distance learning for students. In Boonville, students are overwhelmingly keeping up with assignments.
Approximately 85% students are doing their homework every day said Superintendent Sarah Marriott. At least 13 days have passed since the district was last in session. Teachers only had a couple days to compile initial lesson packets to prepare for student online learning, she said.
“That is phenomenal to us, and that’s probably pretty representative of a typical school day,” Marriott said. “We usually have a certain percentage of kids that struggle with their work or maybe they’re absent, so 85 percent on a daily basis is terrific and we are really proud of that.
For students who have not done work, the district is working on how to appropriately assess those students. No decisions have been made with regard to grading yet, Marriott said. It’s a decision that is soon to come, however, because the district wants to make sure students are doing work and there is some sort of positive outcome, she said.
A survey was sent to families before the March 17 closure to assess what sort of tools students had at home. The district learned about 5-10% of students didn’t have a way to participate in online learning.
Students still could do a laptop checkout. If a student needed a chromebook and had internet access, they made arrangements to pick one up. The district may get to a point where it runs out of computers for students, though, Marriott said.
“There is a possibility that we don’t have enough for every single student, but [a] majority of our kids felt they had appropriate means to do their homework,” she said.
Internet access can be a problem for students. Along with the survey, parents were sent information about companies that provide internet service. Some providers have free access for families if they apply for it, Marriott said. If all online options are exhausted, then parents are sent a physical packet of school work for their children.
“We can mail it, or if we are doing a food drop off at their home, we can certainly drop it off at their house then,” Marriott said. “We want to make sure that all the kids have access and we’ll do whatever we need to do on our end to make sure kids get what they need on their end.”
Boonville High School math teacher Missy Hundley is glad the district is able to provide kids with a learning experience.
“I worry about the kids that don’t have internet assess at home or have parents that still are working [in the community],” Hundley said. “However, with five sections of algebra, I would say there are 70-75 kids that are doing the daily work and turning in assignments every day.”
Teachers are available to students from 10 a.m. to noon daily as office hours to answer questions. Hundley found herself doing school work all throughout the day the first week. Students would send an e-mail and she would respond.
Students can use the two hour daily window either to e-mail or access their teacher through Google classroom. Parents have shared phone numbers with the teacher.
Nearly 90 percent of students in Becky Eckerle’s kindergarten class at Hannah Cole Primary are participating, she said. She has 19 students in her class.
“It’s been a huge surprise,” Eckerle said. “They’ve been consistent. We sent home packets for the first few days and a bunch of reading books.”
They wanted to keep students reading and parents are keeping up with communications, she said.
“The main thing is that we just want to keep the kids involved,” Eckerle said.
The students are being creative and finding new ways to do assignments, she said. The current lesson is on the phases of the moon. Eckerle received a message from a parent saying they got their daughter out of bed on a night when the moon looked huge.
“She was just really excited because she had that opportunity, so they have just tried to be creative,” she said.
Eckerle uses Google classroom to reach students and Class DoJo for parent communication. She works to stay available throughout the day either through her computer or her phone.
“I want the parents to know that I am there for them so I try to respond as quickly as I can,” Eckerle said.
The low spot for distance learning is not being able to interact with her students one-on-one or in small groups, she said. Teachers are sticking to their curriculum and hitting the high spots.
“We’re trying to keep [students learning] and doing the best that we can,” Eckerle said.
Hundley also has seen a cutback from daily classroom rigors. Normally, it’s a new lesson daily and a homework assignment. Students then could ask questions the next day and they would move on to the next lesson. Lessons now take 2-3 days and it is not always new material.
“It’s all been review,” Hundley said. “I do a short video on review and then I give them a much [shorter] assignment.
Students now have to answer 10 questions, rather than 20, which gives them more time to fiture out answers, and they have to enter their work into an online platform. Hundley still is grading work, but has not given tests.
“Normally in my class, homework is only a small percentage of their grade because that is their time to try and experiment and learn, and then they take a test,” she said. “I’m still grading homework as I normally would; sometimes it’s on participation and sometimes it’s on if they got the answer right or wrong.”
Teachers are emphasizing review and reinforcement of lessons at this point because it is very difficult to have the expectation that they are doing new instruction, Marriott said. Teachers are trying to reduce regression.
Hundley has noticed that her students are not necessarily keeping a regular schedule. They may be staying up later or not getting up at a regular time in the morning.
“Not having a daily routine is something they struggle with, and then also now everything is online,” Hundley said. “They haven’t done that before and it’s a lot to take in at once.”
Hundley is giving specific due dates so at least students are keeping up with time management and deadlines. Other teachers are giving weeklong assignments, she said.
Kindergarten teachers like Eckerle are having to think outside the box because students have not yet utilized technology to this extent. It’s helping teachers evaluate important and essential lessons, Hundley said.
“It has made me re-evaluate on what can I present them online that I still think is necessary for their learning,” Hundley said.
Teachers have worked hard to adjust to teaching their students remotely, Marriott said. Some things will need tweaking, but overall teachers have been successful, she said.
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