Although school closure in Steelville has been extended, the school district has decided to use the Steelville Star to provide an alternative form of instruction to local schoolchildren. The alternative learning opportunities provided in the pages of your local newspaper begin with this week’s edition.
To announce the new method of instruction, Steelville Superintendent Mike Whittaker sent a letter out to parents and caregivers on March 27. In it he stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to present challenges for people throughout the world and for us in Steelville. As a result, Steelville Schools will remain closed through April 24, 2020. If the situation improves, we will return to school on April 27, 2020.” (Editor’s note: Following the issuance on Monday of a shelter-in-place order from April 1-30 by Crawford County Commissioners, Whittaker noted the school districts will re-evaluate these dates as needed based on the commissioners’ decisions going forward.)
Whittaker’s letter continued, “As we move into the next chapter of this crisis, we are making some adjustments in how we educate our students. As we do this, please remember, we are not trying to replicate the instruction that took place in our classrooms before the closure. We are simply trying to provide students with opportunities for continued learning and enrichment.”
To provide this alternative method of instruction, Whittaker reported, “We are going to utilize the Steelville Star-Crawford Mirror to publish activities for all grade levels. Beginning (this) week, we will be providing two full pages of activities for our students. The activities will be organized by grade level at the elementary and middle school and by subject at the high school. These lessons will be designed to encourage the use of basic skills and to promote thinking, regardless of the grade level. If a student needs a challenge, they can simply attempt an activity from a different grade level. The paper will be delivered to all households on Thursday of each week. The idea is for students to begin work on their assigned activities the following Monday.”
All families will receive a subscription to the paper for as long as the district uses this format.
The school district will also continue to utilize the district website to provide activities for students. Parents and students will be able to go directly to the folder for their school (elementary, middle school, high school) and find additional activities by grade level at the elementary and middle school and by subject at the high school. The activities will offer the opportunity to review previously covered material, practice a variety of skills, and explore real life experiences.
Teachers will also continue to communicate with students and parents regularly through email, telephone calls, Google Classroom, Zoom, and other online resources. Teachers are available Monday through Friday to work with students.
Whittaker noted, “Through this process, we will determine the additional learning needs of our students. Teachers will adjust and adapt their development of activities for the benefit of our students.”
The letter also explained the district is using this format because the school staff works hard to provide high-quality instruction to all students. Not seeing students on a daily basis creates many challenges. Whittaker noted, “We are not trying to replicate instruction prior to the pandemic. We are providing opportunities for continued learning and enrichment. This is a stressful time for many of our students and parents. The school district’s goal is to not over-complicate the learning process. We are here to provide enrichment opportunities, encourage students to learn, and to offer our support.”
He pointed out this process will eliminate the need for staff members to meet and organize packets of work. It will also eliminate the need for parents to come to school to get those packets. This helps with the essential need to social distance at this time.
His letter stated, “The use of the newspaper will ensure that all of our students receive information about the activities available for them to complete. A recent survey indicated that only 75 percent of our students have access to technology/Internet.”
During this time, teachers will be available to communicate with students Monday through Friday. Teachers must work with their teams remotely to create activities. Teachers should communicate with students and parents regularly (via email, telephone calls,
zoom, etc.) about their completion of activities. At least one telephone call should be made
each week to check on student wellness. Teachers will request samples of completed student work, but there will be no grades given at this time. Students will receive a pass or fail grade for the 4th quarter.
Students also have certain expectations to meet. Students must communicate with teachers, responding to them when they are contacted. Students are expected to complete the activities offered for learning and enrichment. Students should refer to the newspaper and district website weekly to see new activities. Students must read for at least 20 minutes per day. Students will submit work to teachers when requested to do so.
Parents also play a part in ensuring the learning process continues. Parents should communicate with their children regarding assigned activities. This will help provide a deeper understanding of the material. Parents should provide a dedicated time for their child’s learning. Parents must encourage their children to complete the provided learning activities. Parents should encourage their children to communicate with their teachers. Parents should review the newspaper and district website to stay informed about new activities.