ST. MARYS — South St. Marys Street Elementary School transitioned back to remote learning this week, after making it through a little more than nine weeks of in-person classes.
“We could not have been more pleased that we were in as long as we were, five days in a row,” Principal Chrissy Kuhar said.
At the very beginning of 2020, Kuhar said administration began encouraging parent communication and pleading with families to make sure they're connected to school.
This school year, SMASD decided on a single learning platform for all three elementary schools — Seesaw.
“Teachers provide assignments, students complete assignments, and teachers are able to provide feedback to the student,” she said. “Then, teachers can send that work to the parents, and parents can provide feedback.”
Some teachers were dabbling in Seesaw last year, Kuhar said, calling it a “triangular communication system.”
SSMSES also went paperless, using Seesaw for everything, including news letters.
When it comes to being prepared for another shutdown or remote learning period, Kuhar said they had to be ready.
“We never knew when March 13 was happening again,” she said. “We started to ramp up our encouragement of connectivity. We were saying, always be ready for the 'what if.'"
When COVID-19 cases began increasing rapidly in the area in October, superintendents were sending messages to parents about what needed to be done to be proactive, ramping up encouragement of connectivity.
As per a message from SMASD Tuesday, SSMSES will be doing virtual learning through Thanksgiving, Kuhar said.
“Our plan and our hope is to have all the kids back by Dec. 2,” she said.
SSMSES is very focused on relationships, Kuhar and Assistant Principal Julie Boyer said. Teachers have a daily morning message, and are at the school recording live lessons. Families can tune in to the lessons at whatever time of day works for them.
“This year, we're past the review stage,” Kuhar said. “Everything is new learning. We need to make sure our teachers themselves are teaching their contact.”
One of the major focuses, too, was making sure each child knew how to log in to the learning platforms, so they weren't completely lost at home, Kuhar said.
This week, SSMSES ran into some families who didn't have internet, partly due to the windy and stormy weather earlier in the week, she added.
“We offered our cafeteria for students who could come in with an adult and tap into the internet,” she said.
Tutors are also available for students, and teachers have open office hours for students and parents, Boyer noted, as well as life and school-based services.
SSMSES also took parent feedback into consideration. One of the biggest frustrations, found from a survey, was households that had more than one child but only one learning device, Kuhar said. The school has now given out more than 200 ChromeBooks this year.
SSMSES Guidance Counselor Kate McGonnell is offering optional activities that focus on career education and social/emotional skills, and can still “meet” with students virtually if there is a need.
“I'm also doing what I can to help with building needs and supporting teachers in any way I can,” she said.
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