As online learning continues for Goose Creek CISD students during the COVID-19 pandemic, all levels of the academic team continue to learn about the process amid the highs and lows.
With schools being closed until at least May 4 and entering their third week of distance learning, the administration, teachers and students and their families are all in this together moving forward.
This remarkable chapter in world
history began for GCCISD when Melissa Duarte, the GCCISD deputy superintendent for curriculum and instruction, got an early jump on what would ultimately be a nation-wide lockdown.
“Our primary concern was ensuring that our students do not lose any instructional time and that we meet the needs of all instructional staff,” Duarte said. “That Monday morning after Spring Break, the curriculum staff met to determine what instruction needed to look like for the current week and what our transition plan would look like for online instruction, including the platforms we would use.
“Parents received the recommended daily schedule, that Monday, for the immediate week after Spring Break along with instructional resources. The second week of school closure, the district fully rolled out and implemented online instruction.”
The process wasn’t easy as they had to roll it out in short time, but, as Duarte said, it was nonnegotiable based on high expectations and meeting the needs of all students.
“Within two days curriculum developed instructional resources and direct instruction videos Pre-K through 12th grade along with professional development that would occur that Wednesday through Friday,” she said.
“The biggest challenge was overcoming the limited amount of time we had to create all resources and data collection. All staff rose to the occasion and were committed to meet the needs of all students and staff.
“Additionally, teachers assisted the district in surveying families to see what technology needs they had to receive online instruction.”
The next series of grab and go instruction packets will be distributed April 13 and as the third week rolls on, the highs and lows are starting to be fleshed out.
“I believe the district has done a phenomenal job in rolling out online instruction in a very short period of time,” Duarte said. “The district has not had a lapse in instruction and have provided support for all families. The district set up a technology hot line for parents to assist with needs either with devices or instructional platforms.
“Additionally, we have scheduled teacher office hours so response time for students is within 24 hours and during office hours they are able to address students’ needs through their instructional platform, which allows direct feedback.”
Robert E. Lee principal, Dr. Joe Farnsworth says it all boils to the machinations set in place by Duarte and Matthew Flood, the district chief technology officer, who got the genesis of this plan rolling.
“Matt Flood and his team have done a Herculean effort in terms of getting devices out to kids and families,” Farnsworth said. “It was a monumental task done within three or four days. Also, a shout out to Dr. Duarte who got ton of curriculum set up for K-12. When you talk about the math, science, English and social studies teachers, she really mobilized her curriculum team to get lessons prepared so teachers could just focus on the technology and not worry about, ‘I have to get this done.’ They still had to do that, but they were able to deliver a lesson like ‘here, try this the first week.’
“Our teachers are doing a phenomenal job: they are working. At Lee High School, we were on Google Classroom and in January we said every teacher had to be on it, so we were little bit ahead of the curve. We may not have been using it to the full potential, but we were ready to go, and that sling shot ahead of the curve.”
Flood said the pandemic just set in motion what has been in the works since 2012.
“My team has been used to it and it wasn’t suddenly something we had to come up with,” Flood said. “It was still a lot of work, but we had a lot of processes already in place. The Wi-Fi and the process of checking out iPad were already there.
“The biggest challenge was once the device was in the kids’ hands was getting all of teachers acclimated to going online. That’s why we had the three days of training. We had been pushing online instructor for years. Some of our teachers picked up and ran with it. Some of them didn’t have the resources so it was trying to get everyone up to speed and how do we support that.”
Farnsworth noted the challenge is still connecting with students that are no longer sitting 10-feet in front of their teachers.
“Lee High School is the most at-risk school in the district so when you take away a Monday-Friday schedule, a seven-hour school day and our intervention time and safety guards and nets and they are left at home in an unstructured environment, it’s a challenge that we are connecting,” Farnsworth said. “That is one of the bigger challenges in getting kids to connect with us on a regular basis.”
The onus on the educational process is now shared between teachers and the families from parents to the students and back around and that is where the distance learning process can only flourish.
Some teachers have taken additional steps to make sure connectivity remains strong and appears to be excelling as such.
“We have an economic teacher – Robert Chambliss – who is shooting video conference three times a day – and the reason why he does that is he wants to make sure that of the kids are working and if they have to do something like look out for their younger brothers and sisters that they have three times a day where they connect with him for the same information,” Farnsworth said. “That is the epitome of where we are that we can be more tailored to the needs of their kids and their schedules.
“It is working OK. It is pretty seamless if we can get the kids to log in. It’s here’s your assignment for the day and here is what you need to upload. There is a glitch here and there, but that’s a technology. There is a learning curve there, but we aren’t having any systems crashing on a grand scale at all. Once the kids connect, the information is there.”