A month in to the start of a truly unique school year, students have begun to adjust to new schedules and requirements related to COVID-19. While students adjust and learn, teachers and administrators have also been challenged to do so in their positions.
Grain Valley Schools Assistant Superintendent for Academic Services Beth Mulvey is pleased with the way teachers are facing this year’s challenges, but mindful of the stress managing in-person, hybrid, and virtual learning brings.
“Overall, I am really pleased with how the first few weeks of school are going. We are still navigating new challenges every day and the workload for our secondary teachers is off the charts. Managing essentially three lesson plans for each course (in-person, hybrid virtual, and 100% virtual) is stressful,” Mulvey said.
“Our teachers want to make sure the quality and amount of direct teacher to student interaction is the best it can be and that is extremely tough given the circumstances. The twelve days prior to the delayed start in September were crucial in helping our teachers prepare and learn the tools needed to support students in the hybrid and virtual options. Our elementary virtual teachers are doing an amazing job learning essentially a brand new way of educating kids. So far the feedback from families in this option has been very positive. All in all, I think we are doing the very best we can in the craziest of situations.”
At the elementary level, most students have returned to the classroom full-time. James Pinney, principal at Matthews Elementary said the students have adjusted well to the new routines implemented due to COVID-19.
“We have had a great start to the school year. The district did a great job of creating protocols (masks, maximizing space, cleaning routines, hand washing) and providing the resources to support those protocols. Our students and families have done a great job following those expectations and understanding the importance of staying healthy and safe,” Pinney said.
“Our staff and students have truly missed each other and everyone is doing their best so that we can continue to learn at school. Also, our virtual students, families and teachers are doing a great job of being patient as we navigate these uncharted waters with virtual learning.”
At the middle school level, students are either on a hybrid model or all virtual model, and South Middle School Jim Myers said the teachers spent several weeks before students returned focused on learning how to best work with students.
“The school year started in August for our staff with two weeks of self-paced professional development focusing on effectively utilizing Google Classroom as an instructional and communication tool. and on delivering instruction in the Blended Learning Model. Audrey Harrison, our technology instructional coach, created these learning opportunities for our staff,” Myers said.
“The hybrid learning model is a new experience for our students and families as well. In a hybrid learning model students have to take greater ownership in their learning and this has been an adjustment for our students. Our teachers and students are working together to meet this challenge.”
“I am very proud of how our students and teachers have embraced this challenge. We all would rather have our students face to face every day., but in the meantime, we will do the best we can to serve our students and families,” Myers said.
High school students are also attending either hybrid or all virtual classes, with students taking only four classes per nine week quarter. Grain Valley High School (GVHS) principal Jeremy Plowman said the staff is thrilled to have students back in the classroom and cannot wait for the day when all 1450 students return.
“I can't even put into words how wonderful it is for all my staff to have students back at least a few days during the week. That is what educators live for,” Plowman said.
Plowman said students have adjusted pretty well to the many changes they face, but some hybrid students struggle with motivation on days they are not in a physical classroom.
“As we are only doing 4 classes per 9 week quarter, we need to move quickly and learn a lot of material in a short time. Some students are still struggling with the idea that their virtual days are not ‘off days’. 100% virtual students and hybrid students need to be self-motivated to work on learning activities 3-4 hours minimum per day when they are working from home,” Plowman said.
Fall sports activities at the high school level have continued with some normalcy. GVHS Activities Director Brandon Hart is pleased students have had an opportunity to compete this fall.
“All things considered, I think the Fall season has gone extremely well. We have had a few challenges, but we have been able to provide our kids an opportunity to participate and compete. The biggest challenge, in my opinion, has been telling families they cannot come and watch their child/grandchild play,” Hart said.
“Although the atmosphere is not a typical, high school atmosphere, the players and coaches have adjusted well and have made the most out of a challenging situation. I don't feel like the play on the field has been compromised, and I could not be more pleased with the way our kids and coaches have stepped up to manage our situation.”