BY ISABELLE BRAUN
Amid the outbreak of COVID-19, students and teachers have had to face the cancellation of face-to-face classes after recommendations from Gov. Laura Kelly and the Kansas State Department of Education.
As classes fast approach, instructors work to assure their students still receive an education during such unprecedented times. To do so, each instructor has had to modify what they know to best fit their curriculum and the needs of their students.
At Thomas More Prep-Marian, math instructor Melissa Schoepf has capitalized on her previous use of Google Classroom, which she used to provide students with assignments, announcements, discussion boards and a weekly schedule.
“I have office hours each day that students can reach out to me for help, and I am using Zoom to provide some video instructions,” Schoepf said. “Our department is focusing on reviewing previous concepts and preparing for the upcoming ACT with these last seven weeks. We have a small department and have already discussed how to implement the concepts of the last part of the year into their courses next year.”
Schoepf also teaches College Algebra and Statistics concurrently through North Central Kansas Technical College and has worked with them as they moved to online.
“I have only done face-to-face interaction up until a few weeks ago,” Schoepf said. “It is going to be very different to work in a full online environment. The lack of face-to-face interaction is tough, especially when trying to help students emotionally and socially. I feel like as a staff we have built solid relationships with our students, and I hope every student knows how much we pray and care about them.”
Classes throughout town are focusing heavily on the use of technology, but some are facing the possibility of their students regressing in their courses.
Speech-Language Pathologist Andrea Wichers works with children from kindergarten to fifth grade at Roosevelt Elementary School who qualify to receive speech or language services. In the upcoming weeks, Wichers plans on utilizing the services Zoom and SeeSaw provide to work with parents.
“I am setting up an online calendar for parents to sign up for time slots to Zoom with me to get ideas and direct interaction with me on increasing their child’s skills,” Wichers said. “It’s been difficult wondering how I am going to get all my kids seen through Zoom or other platforms and just the whole scheduling piece of this. I am also very hands-on and interactive with a lot of my students, so this will be a challenge at times. However, I have found that parents are being very helpful and understanding. We are all in this together.”
Wichers is not alone in the difficulty she faces with not being able to interact with her students.
Instructor Joan Crull teaches general music to kindergarten, first-, second- and sixth-graders throughout Hays USD 489. She also teaches the Chamber Orchestra and Concert Orchestra at Hays High.
“For my elementary students, I’ll be sending videos of fun songs and singing games to play at home, but I won’t be able to teach all the concepts I would in a music class,” Crull said. “For sixth-grade orchestra, our big goal is to keep them playing. We can have them keep playing in their music books, and they can record and send us playing tests.
“For high school, it’s a bit trickier as we spend 15 minutes on technique but the rest of the time playing. We’ll do some sight-reading and technique building lessons they can do on their own. I’m also going to experiment with trying to play live together something simple but am still researching the best platform for that.”
Crull plans on using Zoom to check in with the high school students to see how they’re handling the change and the new routine.
Every instructor throughout Hays is working on creating the best way to continue educating their students. Schedules might change throughout schools as they work to create a daily routine students know so well.
“We have plans to have spirit days, morning prayers and announcements at the beginning of the day to help check in with our students,” Schoepf said. “As a faculty, we have staggered our office hours so there’s more flexibility. Flexibility is going to be the key for everyone until we find what works best.”
At Hays High, students will have one-hour classes beginning at 8:30 a.m. and continuing until 1:45 p.m., with an hour break for lunch at 11:40 a.m. Office hours are from 1:45 to 3 p.m.
While the changes were unexpected and daunting for some, teachers are staying optimistic about the remainder of the semester and keeping their students on track.
“I miss my students and my coworkers,” Schoepf said. “The first couple of days were hard for our seniors, and the uncertainty was stressful for everyone. However, I feel confident we are ready to embark on this new journey, with the hope that we will all be back together at school in the future. I have learned new technology that I might have never learned otherwise and think down the road it will make me a better teacher.”