‘Kids will remember how their family home felt during this pandemic’; Students to begin remote instruction

Stock Image | Photo by Kerkez/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — In response to the announcement of a soft closure of schools as a result of COVID-19, Southern Utah school districts are preparing for remote instruction amid uncertain times. Board members are meeting daily to discuss the current situation and how best support to parents, students and teachers.

Iron County School District is set to begin remote instruction Friday, and Washington County School District students will begin the first day of remote instruction Wednesday.

As noted on the Washington County School District website, information is changing daily, and administrators are doing their best to adapt and keep parents and students informed.

While schools and teachers will be creating schedules, WCSD Communications Director Steven Dunham told St. George News that parents are being encouraged to create their own daily schedules and routines, and he emphasized the importance of structure.

“Students crave the consistency of schedules, and they’ll have a much easier time adjusting if parents prepare daily routine that includes learning time, chore time and fun – physical activity,” he said.

Starting Wednesday, teachers have been asked to respond to parent emails and requests within 24 hours. Teachers are also being asked to be patient with students as there will be plenty of homes with multiple students who may need to share a computer or electronic device or help with child care as parents adapt to the change.

“The changes have come daily, which has asked us to be flexible and adapt to those changes,” Dunham said. “We’re working to ensure our parents and our students that everything is going to be OK. I know that we are working on a mental health component of this because this is going to be challenging for many students – it already is.”

Chromebooks will be available for checkout and will be prioritized for the families with the greatest need first. Those who already have a computer are asked to use that first.

Parents will need to print, sign and bring in the attached authorization form to the school. In order to arrange for pickup, parents should call and make an appointment on or after March 25. For assistance with printing the document, parents should contact the school directly.

Parents will be responsible for monitoring use and care of the Chromebooks. Borrowed Chromebooks will need to be returned once school resumes or at the end of the school year.

Grab-and-Go lunches will be provided beginning Monday. All students 18 and under will be able to take a lunch, and lunches will be delivered by school bus to more than 30 locations throughout the county at high school cone sites: all the schools that feed into a high school.

Exact times and locations, as well as a map of lunch distribution, will be shared on Thursday.

“Most kids will remember how their family home felt during this pandemic more than anything specific about the virus,” Dunham said. “Our children are watching us and learning how to respond to stress and uncertainty. We want parents to wire their children for resilience not panic.”

There are a few local providers offering free internet for low-income families over the next 30-60 days. Parents will need to reach out and make these arrangements directly with these companies.

  • Greater Washington County residents can contact TDS at 1-888-287-8156.
  • Water Canyon and Enterprise families can contact South Central Communications at their website.

More information will be distributed as it comes available.

Iron County School District

While some charter schools in Iron County having already commenced remote instruction, districtwide instruction will begin Friday.

The district Secondary Education Director Roy Mathews told St. George News that parents and students should expect to hear from their teachers through multiple formats, whether that’s Zoom, Google Classroom or Canvas.

Most of the secondary schools have put out schedules that mirror their regular schedules, he said.

“Our online instruction will continue until further notice,” Mathews said. “It could be a week. It could be next week depending on what the CDC says and healthcare. So we could be back in school sooner, or we could be out longer. It just depends.”

Iron County District Superintendent Shannon Dulaney said in an email to St. George News that teachers were given just two days to put their curriculum together.

Resources for both educators and students have been gathered and disseminated, such as online curriculum resources and technical support. The district has purchased hot spots to give to families who do not have internet access, and Chromebooks are being checked out to families who do not have devices or don’t have a sufficient number of devices in their homes.

Breakfast and lunch will be served to all youth in the community 18 and under. The meals will be distributed at each of the schools in the district and at various centralized locations throughout the county so that maximum access can take place. Breakfast will be available from 8-9 a.m. and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. beginning this Friday.

The locations for meal service will be listed on the district website and each of the school websites.

“We are working in uncharted territory right now in regards to providing education and support services to our great students and their families,” Dulaney said. “However, our district and school teams are confident that if we are patient, understanding and work within a spirit of unity with the goal of keeping our children safe and happy that we will be able to meet this challenge and come through it with minimal disruption to our students’ education and well-being.”

Despite the postponement of area university graduations, high school graduation is still scheduled as of now, she said. Decisions are being made in concert with the governor’s office, the health department and the CDC.

“We are planning for the next two weeks and will be prepared for a longer dismissal should that be the direction given,” Dulaney said.

She also reiterated her gratitude to the community for their work in implementing this change.

“I am so appreciative of our wonderful Iron County community: their giving spirits and willingness to help in any way they can,” Dulaney said. “The challenges that are coming because of the COVID-19 are being faced with thoughtfulness and care.”

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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