'Homework' takes on new meaning

Public, private and charter schools are assembling homework packets for students to keep them on track during school closures. Some schools are also allowing students to bring home Chromebooks to complete their assignments online.

APACHE & NAVAJO COUNTIES — Last Friday Gov. Doug Ducey and Supt. Kathy Hoffman announced a two-week extension of school closures through Friday, April 10. The first closure was through March 27 which may have felt a little more manageable for parents of students on the tail-end of spring break.

“Our goal is to get kids safely back in the classroom as soon as possible while providing parents and educators certainty so they can plan and make decisions,” said Governor Ducey.

But now the lapse in the academic schedules is a reality. School districts have activated their summer meal program federal funding to provide breakfasts and lunches via drive-thru pick up. And many are adding bus route delivery of meals.

Some districts have already begun to assemble work packets for students to pick up. Others are utilizing their existing online platforms to communicate assignments to students. And for those that may not have computers at home or have multiple children in junior and high school, Chromebook laptops are being made available.

“We’re all in new territory,” reminds St. Johns Unified School District Superintendent Ed Burgoyne. “Brick and mortar schools are not set up to do online instruction," but St. Johns is one of 11 public school districts developing contingency plans.

School boards, administration and teachers are holding emergency meetings to determine the best way to keep academic learning on track – especially high school seniors set to graduate at the end of May.

Here are what some public and private schools have already implemented to maintain the momentum of academics:

“During these difficult and uncertain times the Show Low Unified School District will work hand in hand with parents to ensure resources are available and accessible for student in grade K-12,” says Show Low Unified School District Superintendent Shad Housely. “In delivering educational resources, it will be the approach of SLUSD to provide families with support and resources, not to be an added burden or hindrance to what they have going on in their homes.”

With regard to seniors, Housley says, “From the onset it has been a priority of SLUSD to ensure that all our seniors, that would otherwise qualify, graduate at the conclusion of this school year. We have developed and are reviewing means by which students will be able to complete their credits for graduation. We will employ these means should school closure reach beyond April 30th.”

In the Heber/Overgaard Unified School District, teachers and staff reported back to work on Monday, March 23 to begin the process of putting materials together for online assignments and hard copy packets, according to Supt. Ron Tenney. Beginning at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Mach 24, the district will begin disseminating this information to parents and students via pick up at the children's’ respective schools.

"For enrichment during the closure, we are encouraging our students to participate in the MobyMax online learning program, and the teachers will monitor the students' progress and answer any questions," says George Washington Academy charter school principal Beth Kulish.

There are also schools that provide academic and vocational opportunities for children and adults with special needs such as Lexington Academy, Meadows Catalina and TLC Supported Living Services, Inc.

“Academically, many of our students are enrolled in classes they can access online and we ask that they continue making progress on those classes," explains Northern Arizona Academy Executive Director Amy Carlyle. "For those in face-to- face classes, we will be creating online versions of those classes for the students to work on from home. Students without internet access will be provided with paper-based work they can pick up or have delivered to their home."

Additionally, the school is working on a plan to provide services for students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and expect to have those in place by the end of this week.

"Our daytime adult program is still open for individuals who have graduated from high school and eligible to attend," explains Lexington Academy Director Mary Kline. "Our adult program runs 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and won't close unless directed by the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD)."

"Essentially, we are following the pandemic preparedness guidelines in terms of our K-12 school closure and how we can proceed," adds Kline. "Right now, there is so much that is unknown so it's hard to say what will happen after April 10 but we will continue to publish information for parents via email, social media and our call multiplier."

Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. Parents should contact their child’s school directly or visit their respective website or social media page for information.

Reach the reporter at

lsingleton@wmicentral.com

Laura Singleton is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering Show Low city government, business and education.

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