Barren County Schools prepare for long term lesson plans
The coronavirus has turned millions of homes in the U.S into schoolrooms, including right here in Kentucky.
Barren County Schools are preparing for the school closures to continue - making it more difficult to develop long-term lesson plans through the non-traditional instruction program or NTI.
"Several teacher are recording video lessons and sending to kids," said Kathy Burris, Director of Elementary Instruction, Barren County Schools. "I've seen a pre-school class doing a Zoom or a Google Hang-out together, so teachers have done a great job stepping up and learning some technology and in some cases that they didn't know before."
Whether online or on paper, learning must go on. This week, thousands of students across the Commonwealth continued their sc hool year, while never leaving their homes.
Welcome to educational life in the age of COVID-19.
Barren County Schools are teaching through NTI, or as they call it iLearn@Home. It is a program that continues learning on days when school would otherwise be cancelled.
"So, we've been pretty proactive in that stance. We've worked with teachers, they've done a great job getting things together for our iLearn days initially. They did a super job going back in on a moment's notice and getting additional days ready," Burris said.
The typical program is for 10 days per district, per school year, but the emergency instruction is developing lesson plans for long-term use.
"This new program, which is Senate Bill 177 allows the commissioner to extend those days to as many as needed. So far, we've been notified that the State is authorizing up to 30 days for this current school year," said Scott Harper, Director of Instruction and Technology for Barren County Schools.
The current closure date, as of April 1, is April 17th which would be nineteen days of instruction through distance learning.
"Our teachers have done a great job differentiating instruction for those [elementary school] kids. Our special education teachers are working with parents as well to modify and accommodate those lessons. With Elementary kids, attention is a little bit more of an issue, so it is about changing the pace of things and changing things a little bit more than you typically see in middle school and high school," Burris said.
The original program was like preparing for a sprint, with on a couple days off at a time. Now, it is like preparing for a marathon, with the end far down the road.
"This closure is really different. We are now in the process of trying to design instruction for maybe the first time a student has learned this material and it is new instruction. So, that requires a lot more time and a lot more thought process into that and some folks were ready for that and some have been doing a lot of learning, " Harper said.
Virtual learning may sound like a breeze, not having to physically go to school, but it is not without it's challenges.
"On both aspects, I think at home for our staff and at home for our students, everybody has been trying to learn and try to find a new way to engage in the learning and to be able to communicate with each other," Harper said.
"We do have teachers who have jumped in, they've learned the technology necessary. Of course not all kids have that technology.
So, what happens if students do not have access to internet or technology at home?
"The state requires you to have a way to participate through other means. So, we do have paper copies of lessons, students would access books and so forth to do that," Harper said. "Then it is just a matter of figuring out how to get that work submitted, we have lots of methods to try and get that to the home."
Students are still doing the work and getting grades, but just not the same as before.
"We miss the students as much as they miss school," Harper said.