Broken routines. Missed extracurriculars. Virtual graduation. For students across the country, the coronavirus has seemingly destroyed all semblance of normalcy. Most noticeably, the hallmark of high school, the traditional classroom setting, has been replaced with twice-weekly video calls.
In spite of this disruption, the district has made efforts to ensure the success of all students through remote learning.
Special education teacher Nicole Torralbas has been following the same process that other teachers are: hosting Zoom sessions a few times a week and posting assignments on Google Classroom. Once the routine was established, her students adjusted well.
“The main consequence is everyone is missing the face to face interaction,” Torralbas said.
Nevertheless, despite the missed personal interaction, through one-on-one meetings with students, the benefits of remote learning are apparent.
“It has taught me to individualize instruction better for my students. I look at what skills my students really need practice with and that’s what we do in our one-on-one sessions. When we return to the classroom I would like to continue having some one-on-one or small group sessions with my students,” Torralbas said.
Remote learning has served to strengthen the bond between student and teacher in this setting. It has further strengthened the bond between teachers as well.
“We’ve had the wonderful support of our paraprofessionals through remote learning. They have joined in on our class Zoom sessions and assisted with one-on-one sessions with students. They are also assisting our students in elective classes, by checking in with the teacher, and helping them complete their work,” Torralbas said.
However, while most students adapt to this changed routine, some have been unable to due to a lack of reliable internet access or none at all. To combat this, the district began proactively working with local internet providers to help these students and families get access to the internet.
“I feel like the needs of families and students are being met to the best of everyone’s abilities,” school social worker Rachel Vacek said. “Internet providers are spread thin trying to accomodate and troubleshoot the needs of students and families across the metro. Teachers are continuing to show grace and flexibility with students during this ever changing time.”
As need increases across the district due to the pandemic, the district’s measures aim to preserve students’ education and, more importantly, their livelihood.
“There was a plan in place for remote learning as well addressing the increase in family needs,” Vacek revealed.
Funds were raised for the MPS Foundation’s Family Fund, which serves families in crisis. Meals were served over spring break, backpacks were made for students in need, and feeding sites were established to distribute meals. With increases in food insecurity, additional meals were offered to include weekend meals.
“I am very proud of the steps the district has taken to help each family in need. I feel like there is consistent and up-to-date information distributed to families in need to help with whatever their needs may be during these unprecedented times,” Vacek said.
While the coronavirus has disrupted most students’ typical routines, as the community comes together in the midst of this pandemic, perhaps there is a lesson to be learned that does not require remote classes: that of togetherness.