PDN News - Week 1 at home

By: David Seeley  PDN Editor  editor@poteaudailynews.com  Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Most of the LeFlore County schools’ superintendents believe their respective district’s Week 1 of distance learning went well.

 “We don’t have all the information yet, but on a daily basis we’ve received positive input from the parents and the students,” Poteau Superintendent Dr. Don Sjoberg said. “I don’t know the exact percentage of involvement is at this point, but I do know there has been requests for packets. Our kids have been responding appropriately. I’m pleased with how it’s coming along.” 

“It went pretty well,” Heavener Superintended Ed Wilson said. “There’s a lot of learning curves. It’s going to evolve. It’s going to be an evolving process. We’ve just got to learn. Overall, it went pretty well. The packet distribution and the meal distribution went really well. We’ve had a lot of turnout, so we’re pleased — but it’s a learning process. We’ll learn as we go.” 

“I have a zoom meeting with all my teachers every Thursday morning,” Cameron Superintendent John Long said. “We had our Zoom meeting (Thursday) morning, and I was relatively surprised. The teachers felt like everything was working. I even got some text messages. Everything was going according to plan. This is new. It’s not only new for us, but it’s new for the whole state. So, we’re really happy. For the first four days, it’s gone really smoothly.” 

“There was definitely some trial and error because it was new for everybody,” Talihina Superintendent Jason Lockhart said. “I think we’ve seen a lot of patience and work out of our teachers and more kids aspiring to do the work than what I really expected. The kids are getting on board, the parents have been really patient and the teachers have been working hard.”

 “I think it went pretty good,” Shady Point Superintendent Bruce Gillham said. “We spent most of this week keeping instruction going. Last week, we did surveys as to who had technology and who didn’t. We rolled all that technology out this week. We’ve gotten it in their hands, and we spent most of the week on how to use it. So far, it’s gone pretty well.” 

“It actually went really well,” Monroe Superintendent Karen Larosa said. “We made calls all week to our families just to see who had access to the Internet and who didn’t. So, we basically individualized packets for each family, depending upon their needs. A lot of it is hands-on activities, and we use a program called IXL. Our parents have loved it. Our teachers can remote in, see how the kids are doing and keep up on their learning that way. So far, it’s went really well.” 

However, since everything is new, now may not be a proper time for evaluations. “It’s kind of early to be able to evaluate how it’s been assessed,” Spiro Superintendent Richard Haynes said. “Our feedback will probably start coming in next week. That would probably be a better question for next week. We’ve just not gotten all the curriculum out. All the curriculum went out as planned. We delivered them by both bus and pick-up.” 

Of course, there’s been a few kinks that have had to be ironed out as the week progressed. “I think it’s primarily the connectivity issues with the various platforms we’re using that are Internet based,” Sjoberg said. “Those are the issues. They aren’t necessarily hampering us, but we knew going in that there would be some problems with that.” 

“Mainly for our area is the Internet access,” Larosa said. “Even when we made calls to the family, we asked them if they had Internet. A lot of the times they would say on their phones. That’s going to hard for a student, especially if you have more than one child to pass around the phone. For our area, about 20 percent of our families have Internet, and the connectivity hasn’t been as good for the others. That was a hinderance for us. We had to make lots of copies (of curriculum).” 

“I think some of the things we’ll be looking at will be on more distribution, and scheduling wise (of distributing),” Wilson said. “We’ll work on a more detailed scheduling of the weekly materials.” 

“The biggest trial has been making contact with all our students and their parents has been the hardest part like because their phone numbers changed, so we’ve used social media,” Lockhart said. “There’s been some problems with students being able to log into the system, so we’ve had to do some reboots. It’s nothing major, but just a lot of little things associated with this being so new to everybody.”

 “It’s not hard, but it’s teaching them in a different way,” Gillham said. “They’re teaching to a much smaller class. In our elementary, they’re working one on one. In middle school, we’ve put it down into smaller groups. We do try to get them all together at least once a week so they can see everyone in the classroom.” 

Due to technological advancement at Cameron, Long said his school may have been a bit in front of the move to virtual learning. “We already had a few things in place, such as Study Island and Google Classroom,” Long said. “Lower elementary teachers had their Remind App on their phones. We opened up our Internet, and they just signed in as a guest. So if anyone had the device but no Internet (at home), they could pull up to the school parking lot. So, we just incorporated all of that together. The kids already had passwords to get into Study Island. Basically fourth grade through 12 grade are using it, so that allowed them to get access. We’ve gone on out website and created a link called ‘continuous learning.’ They click on the ‘continuous learning’ link and each teacher will come up and they can click ion them. It will saw seventh-grade, eighth-grade history or whatever class they have with that particular teacher, then their assignment comes up.” These superintendents believe more good came from the initial week of returning to school via distance learning. 

“I really want to thank our staff for setting up this opportunity for ours kids to learn,” Sjoberg said. “I’m very pleased with our meals delivery. It’s a big issue we’re paying attention to. I want to thank the kitchen staff. We have bus drivers and volunteers (delivering the meals) out there on the front line, and I want to thank them.” 

“Considering the quick turnaround we had, all of our staff and administration has come together,” Wilson said. “We had a lot of input and legwork from our administration, so I’m proud of them. Our staff was geared up. There was a lot of good positive things.” 

“It’s not perfect,”Long said. “To me nothing replaces the camaraderie, the kids being on campus and the teachers being available, but for what we’ve been asked to do, it couldn’t have gone much smoother. We’re delivering meals to all our students, five breakfasts and five lunches a week If they need something, we can put it in their meal packet. From what I expected, I think we’re ahead of the game, and it’s going smoother than I expected.” 

“As a superintendent, I feel 100 times better than I did in the weeks leading up to it, knowing how everything was going to work,” Lockhart said. 

“I was expecting a lot more time troubleshooting technology and getting the teachers used to teach differently,” Gillham said. “You’re not going to get through the amount of content (under normal circumstances), so you have to teach what’s important and focus on what they need between now and May 8. Other than that, I think it’s gone pretty well, considering the situation we’re in. It’s went as well as it could have.”

 “I don’t want to keep doing it,” Larosa said. “I want to get back to school. Considering what we’re having to do, it’s worked out really well. The kids are enjoying it, but I know they want to be back, too. I think we can do this for four more weeks.”