THE LAST WORD: Home schooling during coronavirus pandemic presents new challenges

Kerry Hubartt

Having kids at home instead of in school for the past several weeks — and likely several more ahead — has created a heretofore unprecedented dilemma regarding how to continue their education while waiting out the COVID-19 coronavirus during Indiana’s stay-at-home order.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed an executive order requiring K-12 school buildings to remain closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year. During this time, all school districts must provide 20 days of remote learning for students to complete the school year.

Some Allen County school districts have been able to continue their students’ terms through e-learning, which had already been established and used when needed during days off due to such circumstances as inclement winter weather.

But Fort Wayne Community Schools has no such system in place, although it has announced that it will implement one-to-one technology in the coming school year, which means every student will be assigned a device, such as a tablet or laptop computer.

In the meantime, FWCS must come up with a plan to provide remote learning for students to complete this school year. It has until Friday to tell the state how it will grade or provide feedback to students on completed work and how it will count attendance, among other things.

In a letter to FWCS parents, Superintendent Wendy Robinson wrote, “My administrative team is working on a plan to meet the state’s new requirements. We already have the online portion in place through PowerSchool. Teachers are providing assignments at least three times a week and holding daily office hours.”

PowerSchool is a web-based student information system that allows parents and students to log into a secure account from home, access assignments, email teachers and more.

Robinson said FWCS plans to announce details of their plan this week.

Robinson’s letter to parents said, “By meeting the state’s requirement to finish remotely, students will complete the 2019-20 school year and move on to the next grade as planned. Our teachers will be ready to take students where they are in the fall and move their learning forward.”

In the meantime, many teachers have been in touch with their students and their parents to give them assignments they can complete online if they have the technology available to do so.

And as grandparents who are helping with childcare of a FWCS fifth grader, my wife and I now find ourselves involved in homeschooling. Who’d a thought?

We can help our grandchild with the assignments sent by her teacher through PowerSchool.

And we began a curriculum last week that we will continue, at least until the new FWCS plan is unveiled, that uses resources offered through PowerSchool as well as other providers to put together a daily home-school plan that keeps our young student active in her readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic.

It’s been fun for us and, we hope, a fun and challenging experience for our granddaughter. Two programs we found have provided a wealth of first-class material that has made for a busy and interactive means of learning each day.

One program we chose to use that was on the PowerSchool list is Scholastic on classroommagazines.scholastic.com. A second we selected from another trusted source is Home Educator on coronavirushomeschooling.com. Between the two and her teacher’s recommendations for daily work, our granddaughter is feeling a semblance of being at school.

And her teacher has enhanced that feeling by conducting a weekly session with any class members who can do so on Zoom, a video-conferencing app that allows a whole group of people to see each other and interact online. It has filled an obvious void caused by the COVID-19 social distancing requirement that has prevented the important social interaction between kids and their classmates and teachers during this pandemic.

We have been thrilled to be able to contribute to this process of learning for our granddaughter and are looking forward to help implement whatever plan FWCS comes up with to complete the school year.

It’s been a time of challenge and improvisation. And it’s good to see people in our community working through the situation in spite of the limitations.

— Kerry Hubartt is former editor of The News-Sentinel.


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