GREENSBORO, N.C. — There are no more carpool drop-offs, no more scrambling to catch the bus, and no more running down the hall because the bell is about to ring. Schools across the state are closed right now because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These days kids are taking online classes set up by the school district and their teachers, “We know we have completely turned education upside down in a very short period and it’s okay if we don’t have it right yet,” said Whitney Oakley with Guilford County Schools.
The school district is one of the largest in the state with more than 73,000 students and 5,000 educators. To prepare for the pandemic and the closing of schools the district distributed more than 8,400 laptops and tablets so students could learn remotely, “Everybody is doing the best they can and that’s true for families, teachers, and students,” said Oakley.
The district also expanded outdoor hotspots for internet access at school parking lots so students who lack connectivity can quickly download learning materials for us at home later. For the most recent list, which is updated weekly, please check here.
While this new normal may be simple for many, some students and parents are undoubtedly struggling with distance learning. A lack of structure and easy access to teachers can be difficult for some students. Parents may also be feeling the stress as they are working more and unable to assist or may simply not understand the material as well.
Michaell Tomas has homeschooled all 6 of her kids during the past 20 years. Tomas does not claim to have all the training many teachers do but does feel all parents and students can do this, “They just need to breathe and relax, don’t panic,” said Tomas.
Most schools like the ones in Guilford County are offering assistance from teachers and have set an outline of learning students should be doing. The county knows not everyone is able to learn remotely but said more than 90-percent of its students have signed on to the system.
Unlike a typical school year, the grading policy has been altered because of the pandemic, “We are not giving F’s, (we are not) giving A’s, we are just looking for completing assignments and feedback to help students continue learning,” said Oakley.
Tomas offers some helpful advice if you don’t have access to a laptop and are worried you or your child may fall behind. She said reading and comprehension is key so, have them read a book and write a report on it, “Focus on reading comprehension because everything is reading comprehension even math,” said Tomas.
She says you can watch documentaries on TV or read about world events in the newspaper if you get it, “Order the Chronicles of Narnia or something, anything to engage their mind,” said Tomas.
In Guilford County, officials said school counselors are staffing a 24-hour crisis hotline for students and have fielded about 100 calls during the first couple weeks. A call center has also been set up and received almost 2,000 calls from students, staff, parents and community members. Multi-lingual staff members are also available to speak with parents in seven different languages in addition to English.
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