PCS students, teachers begin at-home learning

PELHAM – After Gov. Kay Ivey announced that public schools in Alabama would not reopen on April 6 and instead would remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, educators throughout the state began working to come up with a plan that would allow students to continue learning at home.

“This is unchartered waters,” said Pelham City School Superintendent Dr. Scott Coefield. “We don’t have any background knowledge to pull from. I’ve been in education for 30-plus years and we’ve never encountered anything like this.”

Coefield said a slew of virtual meeting have taken place to figure out the best way to proceed with virtual, at-home learning, which began on Monday, April 6.

For kindergarten through eighth grade students, the focus will be on reading, math and physical education. For ninth through 12th graders, instruction will be more structured and the focus will be on credit-bearing courses that students are required to complete.

PCS Curriculum Director Shannon Bogert said learning packets are being emailed to parents and students. Virtual learning platforms, such as Google Classroom, are being used by teachers to upload videos or to communicate with students. The district is limiting the number of paper packets that are being given in an effort to limit in-person communication.

A PCS survey was used to determine the number of students who do not have access to a device or Internet services at home to complete assignments. Bogert said 250 Chromebook have been prepared to be checked out by students. The district has also provided access to Internet hot spots for families in need.

Elementary students are required to complete three 45-minute assignments per week. Additional enrichment activities are also available for students of all grade levels.

For middle and high school students, the focus is English language arts, math, science, and social studies and other credit-bearing courses. Students will complete one lesson and one graded assignment per credit-bearing/core content course per week. Each lesson should take about 30 minutes to complete.

Teachers have been instructed to be available to students and parents during normal school hours, and they will check-in with each of their students at least once a week.

For all students, grades for at-home learning assignments will be for feedback purposes only. Full credit will be given to those students who complete and submit assignments according to the teacher’s directions. Assignments will be posted on Monday and students will have the week to compete them.

“We’ve created the assignments to be as flexible as families need them to be,” Coefield said. “We realize the inconvenience for parents and I fully understand the role of school in the lives of our kids. Throughout this process, our parents have been understanding and we really appreciate them very much.”

Coefield also thanked PCS teachers and staff, many of whom have children themselves, for the hard work they’ve put it.

Based on guidance from the Alabama State Department of Education, seniors in good standing and on track to meet graduation requirements have been marked as completing high school and are not required to participate in at-home learning. Bogert said there are still some seniors working on fulfilling a few requirements, but most PHS seniors have completed their high school careers.

No decisions have been made when it comes to the cancellation of graduation and other senior events.

The school year ends on May 21.