Cleburne ISD students are ready for some school work, according parents and their children.
The district will be initiating at-home remote instruction on Monday, using grade-level lessons and activities in English/language arts/reading, math, social studies and science.
Teachers and parents discussed the use of virtual instruction and the details for delivery through phone calls, emails and texts last week. Schools throughout Texas will remain closed through April 3 by order of Gov. Greg Abbott to stem the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19
Information provided by parents included internet service and devices for online learning available at home, in assisting the district with preparations for the launch of “eLearning” for its 6,874 students.
“Our teachers were very excited to make connections with students and parents and to learn, first, that things were going well,” Kristi Rhone, surriculum and nstruction assistant superintendent said. “They are looking forward to beginning remote learning. Everyone in the district has been working together to make that happen.
“What we learned through our communications with parents is that a lot of our homes didn’t have digital devices for their elementary-age students. Our students in grades [sixth- through 12th] have school-issued Chromebooks that they also take home, but we anticipated a need for Chromebooks for our younger learners, and there definitely is one.”
Members of the district’s information technology department spent last week collecting devices from elementary campuses and sanitizing each one in preparation for distribution.
On Thursday, Cleburne initiated a curbside Chromebook check-out effort at Cooke Elementary School for families who had registered for devices. Check-outs also took place on Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon.
“On the first day, we issued more than 700 Chromebooks,” Rhone said. “A lot of the students came with their parents for the curbside check-out and they were so excited. We also saw a lot of appreciative parents.
“Our plan for remote instruction is to keep learning opportunities in place for our kids while they are at home. This will also provide some virtual interaction with their teachers and peers. We’ve been doing a lot of video conferencing with our principals and teachers to ensure we are using the latest and greatest apps to keep instruction engaging and user friendly for participants.”
The district is also working on a plan to provide paper packets of the lesson contents that will be presented in the remote instruction program.
“We do know there is still a need for paper packets for our households where internet is not available,” Rhone said. “We are using guidance from the Texas Education Agency to develop a plan for paper packet distribution and will be reaching out to parents early next week with the process we will using.”
Stefani Huey was among the parents in the line of cars that snaked along the back driveway of Cooke Thursday morning. She had come to the campus to pick up a Chromebook charger for her Smith Middle School seventh grader.
“Ashton has his school Chromebook,” Huey said. “But his charger is in his locker at school, so I came to get one. We also have a son at Gerard and we have a device for him. Both are doing great and ready to get back to school. I’m happy the district is going to be offering remote instruction. I was concerned they were going to fall behind. This will keep their brains active and give them some sort of routine. This is also teaching them that when something comes up, you need to find a solution.”
Huey said Brayson, her third-grader at Gerard Elementary School, had been receiving videos from his teacher, Amanda Kahla, through the Remind app, used by a lot of CISD teachers.
“They’ve been reading ‘Prince Caspian’ in class and she’s videoed herself reading chapters from the book to them,” Huey said. “She also sent a video in which she’s making Rice Krispie treats, which they all love. She has been so sweet to do this. I think this helps ease the anxiety of students about the situation we are in right now, and keeps them connected and involved.”
Bet Elliott drove to Cooke to pick up a Chromebook for her fourth grade granddaughter, Maci Green, who attends Marti Elementary School. With the closing of campuses, Elliott is keeping her grandchildren, which also includes Wheat eighth grader Hunter Green, while their parents are at work.
“They are doing great,” Elliott said. “Maci is eager to get back to learning. She’s been reading, but is excited to do some school work. Getting to do it on a Chromebook makes it even more exciting for her. This will be new for me, and I hope I can handle it. I’m not real computer literate. Hunter has his Chromebook from school so I think we’ll be fine. They’ve been off for two weeks and they are ready to get back into school — even if it’s this way.”
As Cleburne begins remote instruction, Rhone encourages parents — and grandparents — to talk about what their students are experiencing as “eLearners.”
“My advice is to have conversations with their students about what’s going on,” Rhone said. “We don’t expect our parents to be teachers. But their roles have changed during this time away from school, and their conversations and support about online instruction will be very beneficial to our learners.”