• Last modified 873 days ago (March 19, 2020)


Teachers, parents cope with school closures

Staff writers

A decision by Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly to shut the state’s school building the rest of the year and move education online in response to an outbreak of COVID-19 has teachers hatching plans to tackle the task of reaching their students.

Online learning may challenge many students’ established learning style forged by years in the classroom, said Kelly Robson, Marion High School math teacher.

“I’ve always been a big believer in the face-to-face part,” he said. “We’ve had online learning in limited situations, and I felt like it took a special student to do really well, independently in a sense, online. I think our interaction in class is really valuable.”

Not all students have Internet access at home though, Robson said.

“Since I heard her say that I’ve been thinking about it,” he said. “I don’t know how I’m going to handle things in the math classroom if we’re asked to go solely online. I really don’t know.

“We’re just trying to make the best of the situation right now and it’s really weird.”

Karen Nickel, who teaches middle school English and math at Centre is on the district’s Leadership of Tomorrow team. She has two young children a kindergartner and a third-grader and has taught kindergarten.

The team plans to meet today and develop strategies to make the experience productive for students. A state task force of 25 educators is also working to develop plans for continuous learning and will deliver their recommendations to commissioner of education Randy Watson tonight.

Nickel said her biggest concern with the state’s plan is how the younger students will adapt to being taught online.

“That’s my biggest worry is, ‘How is this going to look,’ ” she said. “I’m still teaching seventh and eighth graders – but I am trying to picture how this will work as a kindergarten teacher.”

Zoom and Google Hangout are great resources, but students need Internet access to use them, Nickel said. And children would need to use an e-mail address.

Establishing and maintaining a daily routine will be critical for the success of any online schooling, she said. If children are logging in at different times it will be a challenge for the teacher.

“I agree that there is going to be some struggle with motivation,” she said

The switch might be easier for older students if their classes are already taught online, said Marion science and math teacher Gary Stuchlik.

Stuchlik teaches calculus and statistics online through Butler Community College, so he said there shouldn’t be much change in those subjects.

Teachers and students have the advantage of existing rapport since ¾ of the year is done, but concerns remain with certain fundamental learning aspects, Robson said.

“Each of us has our own thing we have to get figured out and how to reach the kids,” he said. “As algebra one teacher, I’m quite concerned about how this is going to affect the kids going forward. There are several really important topics we haven’t gotten to yet.”

As a parent with daughters in middle and high school, it’s especially important to help students stay active, Stuchlik said.

“The biggest news we’re finding is the evening activities,” he said. “Even with just two children at home, there are still many nights we’re busy with things. That’s going to be quite the adjustment.”

Teachers are already scrambling to cover their workday by trading child care with other parents, Nickel said.

She is already working out a tentative arrangement with a close family friend to “trade the littles and the bigs” — her friend may look after her younger two while she tutors the woman’s fifth and eighth graders in math and English.

“It’s not set in stone yet,” she said.

Last modified March 19, 2020