Despite the challenges and hiccups that came with the first week of remote learning, Lynchburg City Schools parents and teachers are hopeful for the next nearly two months.
As cases of COVID-19 continued to rise in the Lynchburg area with the first day of school approaching, the division opted to reopen Aug. 24 with a remote-only model, with all of its students learning from home.
While older students have been able to manage their online work largely independently, remote learning proved to be more challenging for parents and students in the division’s youngest grade levels.
Erica Herndon has experienced both the challenges and successes of remote learning. For her high schooler, remote learning has been largely successful, Herndon said. Aside from waking him up in the morning, Herndon said he is able to log onto the computer, attend Zoom meetings and complete his assignments on his own.
For her second grader, it’s been a different story.
Because her second grader is unable to navigate SeeSaw — the learning management website the division is using to house instruction and learning materials for students in younger grades — by herself, Herndon said she finds herself playing a large role in her daughter’s learning.
Each day, she said, she logs onto the site, finds her daughter’s assignments, reads the instructions, relays those instructions to her daughter, helps her daughter complete the tasks, then submits the work for her. Then she does it all again for each assignment.
“It’s a little hectic and incredibly time- consuming,” Herndon said.
Allison Jordan, director of curriculum and instruction for LCS, said there was a “learning curve” among both parents and teachers during the first week of remote learning.
“There’s no way we could think about everything that’s going to come up with such a new environment,” Jordan said. “We are learning new things each day; we are tackling new challenges and issues each day.”
Some of those challenges, Jordan said, are technology-based — connectivity issues, logins and passwords not working, navigating SeeSaw. But, teachers and staff were expecting that and are readily available to answer calls and help parents with those issues, Jordan said.
Herndon said she has been pleased with the availability of her students’ teachers — any questions or issues that have come up have been addressed within 30 minutes, Herndon said.
Travis Earley, parent to a special needs pre-K student in the division, said he’s struggled with the “unreasonable” nature of some of his student’s assignments.
“They wanted me to have my child jump up and down while saying his name,” Earley said. “My child is mostly nonverbal.”
Because his son is so young and on the autism spectrum, Earley said, he needs one-on-one assistance from a teacher and social interaction with his peers.
“We want the very best education for our child,” Earley said. “It’s just almost impossible for me to do these activities with him because he is special needs.”
At Tuesday’s Lynchburg City School Board meeting, staff said some of the division’s “vulnerable” students will begin attending school in-person two days a week beginning Sept. 8. Special education students with the most significant needs will begin in-person instruction next week, followed by English-language learners and the division’s youngest students.
Jordan said the division recognizes the challenges Earley and Herndon are facing and see younger students are struggling with some online materials. Beginning as soon as Sept. 8, Jordan said, the division is going to begin distributing learning kits with tangible learning materials for younger students.
At Tuesday’s school board meeting, LCS Superintendent Crystal Edwards recognized and thanked the division’s teachers and staff for “giving their best and their hardest to make this work.”
As a kindergarten teacher at Bedford Hills Elementary School and parent to three LCS students, Soraya McKinney is balancing remote teaching and helping her children with their remote learning.
Luckily, she said, her high-schooler and middle-schooler are able to handle their remote learning without much help. They are meeting in small groups of friends to do their work together each morning.
“They’re having to grow up fast,” McKinney said. “Having a schedule and routine with some of their peers, I think, really ensures that they’re not facing this newness alone.”
While her older children are able to handle the online materials, McKinney said her kindergartners’ parents want them to have less screen time and more hands-on assignments. McKinney said parents are having to play a large role in their child’s learning, which is challenging for them.
“Obviously this is not what we want, but we’re making the best of it,” McKinney said.
With over a week down and more than six weeks to go, Brianna Bernard, first grade teacher at Heritage Elementary School, said she’s most appreciative of the parents who are making remote learning work despite the challenges.
“This is the most parent engagement I’ve ever had,” Bernard said. “There’s definitely been some frustration from some parents, rightfully so — this is something they’ve never had to do before.”
Being available for parents and having compassion for them during this time is going to be key to making remote learning work, Bernard said.
“It’s only going to get better as we continue to get to know the technology,” McKinney said. “We need parents to continue to work with us and be patient.”
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