By Everett Brazil, III
The Newkirk Herald Journal
NEWKIRK — Society is facing a new world, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the biggest challenges, especially in the United States, is how to educate the students and finish the school year while schools remain closed to help slow the spread of the virus. Newkirk Public Schools (NPS) is no exception, and faculty and administrators are taking advantage of online resources to continue the school year through May.
NPS began online education April 6, following several weeks of closure, including Spring Break, March 16 – 20. The school closed following an executive order from State Superintendent of Education Joy Hofmeister. NPS was originally planned to re-open April 6, distance learning was extended to the remainder of the school year as the virus spread across the state.
Faculty of all NPS campuses, including Newkirk High School, Middle School and Elementary School, met March 27 to discuss how to educate the students with online resources, and after several weeks of the program, those efforts seem to be proving successful.
“Overall, it’s been going well. We knew there would be some challenges, and for the most part, we’ve overcome most of them,” said NHS Principal Kevin Engle. “We have pretty much had full student participation. Some may not turn in their work, but we’re in contact with everyone.”
NMS has seen a similar rate, offering the students Google Chromebooks if they don’t have access to a smart device or computer at home. NHS has also taken similar measures in allowing student access to the Chromebooks.
“I think we’re doing pretty well. The teachers seem to be getting more comfortable about it by the day,” said NMS Principal Jeff Wilson
Both NMS and NHS have already been using Google Classroom since the start of the school year, which is an online program designed to make it easier to learn remotely. The program allows students and teachers to connect, such as through uploading worksheets, tests and videos.
“Teachers upload things to Google Classroom. The students log on and do the work, then repost it to turn it in to the teachers,” Engle said.
Students and teaches also connect in other ways, such as FaceTime, Google Meets, Zoom and other Internet services to continue meeting, and each class has an online meeting each week to have questions answered, Engle said.
NMS has an additional program at their disposal, in IXL. Like Google Classroom, it is an additional resource for teachers to get their assignments to the students.
“Teachers can go in and post assignments and standards. It grades everything online for you,” Wilson said.
For NES students, most of the learning is finished for the school year, and the focus has shifted to that of review to ensure the concepts stick with the children until the next school year. NES has several online programs they rely on for education, and like NHS and NMS, most of students seem to be actively participating.
“The good news is that 90 percent of our parents are responding and working with their children, and teachers to continue working,” said Principal Pam Hunter. “No elementary student should have to work more than one and a half to two hours a day. We are trying to make things as simple as possible.”
The online work is performed with several online resources they are already using in the classroom. A lot of the work focuses on math and reading skills, as well as reviewing what they previously learned during the school year.
“Those students that have Internet access and a device are doing all-virtual learning with online libraries that we subscribe to, and a math program and a reading program we subscribe to,” Hunter said. “We’re not expecting parents to teach them anything new. Everything should be something they already learned.”
Not all students have Internet access however, and NPS has been addressing that issue to help students learn. For those students with no deceives or Internet, they are offered packets of their school work to take home and complete, and return it to the teachers.
“A packet is a hard copy of the work. They can come by the school and pick it up, or if they have a driver delivering them lunch, it can be delivered that way,” Wilson said.
The school is closed for the remainder of the school year, and while the distance learning may not be as easy as teaching from a classroom, everyone is adapting and believe the program is working.
“It’s not ideal, it’s not the way we wanted to finish the school year, but I think everyone’s making the best of it,” Wilson said.