(by Karen Campbell, Weakley County Schools Communications Director)
IF the number of COVID-19 cases in Weakley County lessen, THEN County school children can return on August 3 with relatively few disruptions to their day. IF the number of cases continues to rise, THEN Weakley County Schools will be prepared with options for distance learning including resources within the home and teacher check-ins.
To be prepared for these and many other IF/THEN situations, staff and recruited team members will spend the next few weeks asking and answering such questions as:
- If we take temperatures at the doors of the school buildings, then how many additional open doors and staff members will be needed to make the process move quickly?
- If we space out children on school buses, then how many more routes will be required to get children to school on time?
- If we reduce the amount of children in the cafeteria, then how do we provide nutritional meals in a timely manner?
- If we require frequent handwashing and sanitizing of equipment, doors, and other surfaces, then how much product will we need?
- If we offer distance learning, then how will we provide for those without internet access?
- If we offer distance learning, then how will we provide for those with special needs?
- If we learn of a change in the county risk status, then how will we keep students, family and staff aware of ever-changing guidelines?
That’s only one question per the seven groups currently addressing Operations, Transportation, Nutrition, Health and Safety, Continuous Learning Plan, Special Populations, and Communications. Many more such questions have emerged as teams begin to meet and examine the implications of following the Centers for Disease Control and local health department guidelines.
Last week, teachers, administrators and district personnel gathered to discuss the Continuous Learning Plan which is due to the state by July 24. This plan must address how learning can continue in the event of another mandated closure or when health concerns for the child prohibit him/her from participation in the classroom.
Fortunately, younger children were already going to be introduced to new curriculum in the new school year that can be readily explored in a type of “toolkit” that would include most of what is necessary to continue learning at home.
“Learning at home does not deliver the full experience of learning alongside others and under the instruction of a trained and equipped teacher,” said Terri Stephenson, Instruction Supervisor for Kindergarten through Elementary. “But with online resources and check-ins by the teacher, we can guide children’s learning.”
For students in middle and high school, technology will be used to fill the need should closures once again be required.
Instruction Supervisor Donald Ray High noted, “We recently met with teachers from the district to evaluate different technology platforms to facilitate instruction. The district is in the process of locating and purchasing devices for anyone in this age group who does not have an adequate computer. For those with little to no access to the internet, we will work on loading devises with the lessons needed.”
Still to be addressed are issues such as which of the rapidly appearing resources from sources such as the Tennessee Department of Education, PBS, various publishers and surrounding counties with whom we might partner are best for are older students’ ongoing learning.
School principals also met last week to identify logistical issues that will need to be resolved. They will meet with teams they form from their schools and communities before coming back together with options and solutions, said Jeff Kelley, the Assistant Director of Schools and team leader of the group.
(photo: (left to right) Melanie Needham of Dresden Elementary, Jeff Cupples of Greenfield School, School Board Chair Steve Vantrease, David Lewellen of Dresden Middle, School Board Member Josh Moore, and Terri Stephenson and Jeff Kelley of the district staff.