Last week the Bismarck School Board got a glimpse into how school administrators are feeling as the buildings are nearly empty and students are at home.
The board still met for its normal meeting and received updates from Superintendent Jason King, as well as Principals Carmen Barton and Katie Martinez and technology director Ben Moss.
King said teachers worked March 18 on preparing their alternative methods of instruction. The maintenance crew worked on to sanitize and disinfect the buildings. And the kitchen staff has been working on continuing to feed the students through the breakfast/lunch pickups. He said there has been almost no leftovers after the first couple of days.
“Just a big thank you to the staff and everyone that’s been involved,” King said. “They totally changed their way of thinking and everything’s been turned on its head in just a matter of days here. It’s very impressive how they’ve come together to be able meet most of the needs of our kids: trying to meet their nutrition needs and the well-being of them and also trying to keep their academic needs satisfied.”
The students who are enrolled in classes with dual credit from Mineral Area College are continuing those classes with the help of MAC and their teachers, including math teacher Tabatha Crites.
“I spoke with her this morning,” King said. “She said they were having a great time. They turned their kitchen into an office this morning and they’ve been answering emails left and right, helping kids do math problems. So they’re having fun with it.”
Barton said many of her teachers were already at school at 6:30 a.m. last Monday scouring through units they haven’t covered and preparing. All of the elementary students went home with work packets from the teachers.
“Education is important to these teachers,” Barton said. “They are terrified we won’t come back. They want to see these kids.”
She said she gets notifications when teachers send things out to parents through Google Classroom and she’s been overwhelmed.
“There’s so much going on back and forth between all of them that I can’t even keep up with all of it,” Barton said. “It’s great to see.”
Teachers are especially enjoying the photos parents are sending them of their students.
“It really makes teachers happy to get those pictures from the parents,” Barton said. “To see the kids, they’re working from home. A lot of them are and they’re taking it serious. Hope we get to see them again soon, but who knows.”
Martinez said her teachers were already familiar with Google Classroom and many of them already had it set up for their students.
In his technology update, Moss said remote instruction has been something staff has been preparing for the past three or four years.
“We’ve really seen a lot of teachers step up and work hard to find new solutions, new tools themselves that we’ve helped support,” Moss said. “I think the next few weeks are going to be evidence of that.”
“It was really quite easy because of where we are at technology-wise for our staff to start looking at AMI or alternative methods of instruction really in a matter of days,” King said. “So that’s not to say it’s perfect or the best thing ever.
"But it might have been a nightmare had we not been prepared as we were for those things. It’s being put to the test now. The first few days have seemed fine. And we will see where we are at moving forward, but we have confidence in our ability to do it.”
Every student in grades 3-12 have Chromebooks, but only junior/senior high students took those home with them.
One of the board members did raise concerns over students who might not have internet access.
King said the work teachers are putting online is optional.
The students can also access Google Classroom through a cell phone, Martinez added.
Barton said her students went home with packets but that students often find a way to get access.
“The kids are pretty resilient in finding a friend that has it or a neighbor,” Barton said.
King also mentioned that some internet providers are having deals to help families out during this time.
Nikki Overfelt is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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