Since the spread of COVID-19, the Waynesville R-VI School District has adapted its teaching methods to ensure the safe instruction of its students. Currently, all students, kindergarten through grade 12, can learn from home either through virtual classes or paper lesson plans, said Trish Adkins, assistant superintendent for instructional services.
“In a time like this, it’s important that we provide instruction for our kids, that learning continues, that we provide some sense of normalcy amidst a very stormy time for our country,” Superintendent Brian Henry said.
Henry said that although some teachers are learning to use the technology along with their students, he is impressed with their performance.
“All of them have been interacting with their students online, we’re posting lessons online. Teachers are creating videos, virtual instruction, linking numerous different technology tools,” he said. “My hat is really off to our teachers and to our kids who have had to adapt as well in this process.”
District officials said virtual learning preparations began before COVID-19 appeared in Pulaski County.
“We had started about a week prior to this coming to fruition, talking about alternative methods of instruction for next year, which is when the state is adopting a model that you can use for instruction when you have an emergency or long delays,” Henry said.
Adkins was one of the first people in those meetings, she said.
“So when we first saw this coming, and we met as the cabinet-level team, we had some discussions about (how) we needed to make sure we were prepared then,” Adkins said. “My directors and I got together and we started drafting out a plan. We researched what other districts do for alternate methods of instruction, what our priorities were for supporting students’ learning.”
She said teachers came back from vacation to execute the changes and, within one day, were assisting students.
“Our teachers did a phenomenal job,” she said. “We developed this plan, sketched it out, while they were on Spring Break, and they came in, and in one day, were ready to go. They had resources ready for their students to pick up, and they were ready to get online and start teaching.”
The district intends for the semester to end at its regularly scheduled date, May 29, and to resume normal classes on May 4, but that plan remains tentative, Henry and Adkins said.
“While we’re working very hard to provide a quality educational experience to (the students) virtually and online, we sure wish they were in school and wish we could be with them continuing our journey this year,” Henry said.
He added that he appreciates the flexibility families have displayed.
“I know it’s a challenge for families because oftentimes, parents need to go to work all day and come back, and there’s homework and a lot of questions from kids,” he said. “If there are concerns, communicate with us. We’re trying to work with everyone who reaches out to us.”
Adkins expressed gratitude for the parents of the district, as well.
“Many of them are still working … and trying to juggle working with supporting their (children’s) learning, and we greatly appreciate that,” she said.
Henry spoke directly to the more than 6,000 Waynesville students who have been separated from their place of learning.
“We miss you, we hope you come back soon,” he said. “Stay engaged, ask questions when you’re having problems, and know that we’re here to help.”