Local schools provide alternative learning plans for students

Friday, April 3, 2020

SIKESTON — Since school districts dismissed almost three weeks, many educators have been sharing learning resources with families via social media.

As dismissals were extended, local school districts have released additional plans for educating students alternatively during their breaks. Some school districts are offering weekly assignments which could potentially count as grades for students while others are offering optional, enrichment opportunities to keep students engaged while at home.

On March 27 Sikeston R-6 School District announced it would implement an alternative method of instruction plan, which begins Monday.

Chuck Mayes, chief academic officer/curriculum and professional development assistant superintendent for the Sikeston R-6 School District, said school officials conducted research from other schools that are also implementing alternate-method-of-instruction plans – not only in the United States but across the world —because some schools have been doing this longer than the United States.

“One of the things we heard is if you give the same number of assignments that you give during the school day, you completely overwhelm the parents,” Mayes said, noting many families will have multiple children and parents who are still working or working from home, too.

“The district wants to help its families— not burden them,” he said. Sikeston R-6 on Thursday sent letters electronically to its parents detailing the instruction plan.

“We decided to do one assignment per week per subject or course,” Mayes said.

“For example, a student at Southeast Elementary will have one assignment or activity a week for math, science, social studies and their electives of physical education, music and art.”

“We recommend to do one or two a day,” he said.

“At the high school or junior high, for example, if students are in English II, they will have one assignment for that course for the week,” Mayes said.

The district will create a webpage that is accessible on the district website (www.sikestonr6.org) linking building lesson plans for each grade level or course for parents to access the activities or assignments. 

“Parents, please be patient,” Mayes said, adding educators have worked to put the plan together as quickly as they could.

Mayes said, “School officials know there are some students who don’t have devices or internet, and a distribution plan is currently in development.”

“Our goal in phase one is to get this up and rolling and do the most good we can establishing connection with those who have access to the internet and a device,” Mayes said. “We realize there will be students who have barriers to this type of interaction.”

“In phase two, teachers will be attempting to contact the parents of students with whom they’ve not been able to make contact. The goal will be to identify barriers to participation and to make every effort to remove these barriers,” Mayes said.

“From April 6-17, the district will not be taking grades for assignments but will be providing feedback, connecting with the students and getting re-established,” Mayes said.

“This is a trying time for everybody,” Mayes said. “Several people in one family may be trying to access one computer, and in some cases, kids can’t access internet at all.”

Teachers may allow students to redo a previous assignment or allow students to complete missing assignments and adjust student’s grades during this time period.

If the school closure is extended beyond April 17, teachers will use current grades for students and their final fourth quarter grade will not be any lower than their current grade for the course. However, teachers will grade current assignments and use these grades in calculation of the fourth quarter grade if by doing so the student’s grade increases.

“We won’t lower their grades during this time,” Mayes said. “We know there are some kids who before the dismissal were not happy with a grade and planned to bring it up. It’s not their fault that school was closed and that path was taken away.”

The district also tried to make the lesson plans in a course or grade as uniform as possible within each building. For example all first graders within a building will be doing the same assignment or all the English II teachers would make the same assignment or activity.

“I know teachers are trying to plan ways to not just assign but interact as well. Some are using Google Hangouts or Zoom or other methods to actually have interaction with the students,” Mayes said.

Teachers will have office hours; they will be available two hours a day for parents, if they need them to email or call. Many of the teachers will also be available via Facebook or Twitter. The two-hour periods vary by building, Mayes said.

Professional development is also being offered for teachers during the break, he said.

“Teachers are learning on the fly, too, and are missing the interaction with the kids,” Mayes said.

District officials want to do what they can to keep students actively focused and still preparing for next year, he said.

New Madrid County R-1 School District also announced on March 27 it was launching “Eagles Online,” which provides ongoing learning options for prekindergarten through 12th grades during the district’s closure and beyond. Parents and students can visit the district’s website where they will find links to resources by grade levels.

According to the district’s Facebook page, the student work is optional and not to be graded but great for continued skill development.

At-home practice packets for prekindergarten through fifth grade students will also be available for curbside pickup only from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday. These packets are to provide enrichment opportunities and to sustain what the students have learned this school year, according to the district’s Facebook page.

“This work is not mandatory and it will not be collected for a grade. It is simply an opportunity for your child to practice concepts they have learned this year,” the district said on its Facebook page. “This work is offered by your NMCR-1 Elementary Schools to keep students on track for skills that are important for mastery.”

New Madrid County R-1 is only assigning grades to student work in the following circumstances: teachers may arrange via email for sixth through 12th grade students to complete prior assignments that were missing before spring break or for sixth through 12th grade students who had a failing course-grade prior to break in order to give them opportunities to bring their grade up to passing; and teachers of ninth through 12th grade students taking advanced placement or dual credit courses will be working with students via email to help them fulfill the necessary requirements associated with those courses.

Other schools like Charleston R-I School District have provided online recommended resources, which have been published on its website. The list of optional resources are for parents to use with students during the school closure.

Scott County Central School District is also offering resources to engage its students.

“All our work at Scott County Central is being offered as a source of enrichment and engagement, not a mandatory requirement to earn new classroom grades,” said Scott County Central Superintendent Brian Hukel on Friday. “We do have our high school-dual credit students still working at home with the assistance of district provided laptops, hot-spots and teacher support as needed.”

All elementary classrooms prekindergarten through sixth grade sent home paper/pencil tasks, the superintendent said.

“We also sent home usernames and passwords for students to access the online components they use regularly in the classroom,” Hukel said. “We fill our Scott County Central Elementary Facebook page with online activities, virtual tours and activities, author read-a-louds and updates. Teachers are also communicating with parents through their own classroom Facebook pages or class Dojo.”

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: