Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Summit County school districts are striving to teach and feed their students
While schools have closed for at least the next two weeks due to COVID-19, teachers and administrative staff say they’re working to provide students with as much support as they can in these uncertain times.
Schools provide more than just education, and amid the rapidly changing landscape brought on by seemingly unprecedented reaction to the pandemic, all three Summit County school districts are offering meals to students and working to transition to distance learning.
The situation is challenging, but teachers and staff say they’re proud of the solutions they’ve been able to find.
“This is a work in progress,” said Julie Hooker, a Park City High School teacher and a co-president of the Park City Education Association. “We have been advised … to really be flexible with this and really be compassionate and not overwhelm kids and recognize that everyone is in a different place. … It’s the uncertainty that’s making it so difficult. And that’s no one’s fault.”
One of the key functions school districts fulfill is feeding students, something that might not be as obvious as the education and social connection schools provide, but something that gives some students 10 meals per week.
In Park City, breakfast and lunch will be available free of charge to all students age 18 and under for the duration of the dismissal. Parents can pick up one breakfast and one lunch per student from 8-10 a.m. at Ecker Hill Middle School or Treasure Mountain Junior High School.
The North Summit School District administration asks parents who want to arrange for food for their student to email Robin Wilde at firstname.lastname@example.org before 7 p.m. the night before. Breakfast and lunch will be available for pickup from 8-9 a.m. at the north door of North Summit Middle School.
Lunch will be available to all students, while breakfast will be available for elementary and middle school students only.
The meals in North Summit will be charged at regular prices to students’ accounts, Wilde said. She asked that parents include in the email the student’s name, food restrictions and contact information.
In South Summit, breakfast and lunch will be available at the regular price between 10 a.m. and noon at South Summit Middle School.
South Summit School District spokesperson Jodi Jones said that the district has also made arrangements to deliver meals to families that require it. She added that parents have been notified about the program via email, and that parents should reach out to the food nutrition manager for their students’ school to arrange for meals.
Some teachers in the Park City School District were preparing for a possible school closure days before the announcement came down Friday, readying two weeks of lessons for younger students to take home if the pandemic shut down public spaces.
Those packets were sent home Friday, and teachers around the county were using the first few days this week to plan how to continue to teach students when they couldn’t meet in person.
Some turned to creative solutions, like filming themselves delivering lessons or working to arrange virtual classtimes with online apps.
In Park City, students in grades K-5 received the take-home packets and teachers were busy preparing another 10 days of instruction. The lessons reinforce concepts that have already been taught, district spokesperson Melinda Colton said, allowing parents to avoid having to teach entirely new subjects.
The goal is to engage students four hours per day, Colton said, and those hours do not need to be consecutive, according to Chief Academic Officer Amy Hunt.
Older students, those in grades six through 12, are using the district’s online learning system. Colton said that the district completed an inventory of students’ ability to access the internet at home, and that the district has devices and internet hot spots that students can take home if they need to.
North Summit teachers are also using a hybrid of take-home packets of work for younger kids and online lessons for older ones. Superintendent Jerre Holmes said that the transition was relatively easy for high schoolers, who already use devices at home to complete schoolwork.
For middle schoolers, the students were allowed to take home the devices they had been using in schools. The youngest students were given packets of material to work through at home, and Holmes said some had already been using their parents’ devices to complete some assignments.
“Right now, we feel good about our progress,” Holmes said.
In South Summit, teachers are working to transition their curriculum online while administrators are dealing with the sort of hiccups that might be expected given the change, like making sure internet filters function while district-owned devices are taken off district property.
Jones said she anticipated small group learning may start later this week using video-hosting platforms like Zoom or Google Hangouts.
Across the county, teachers are reporting to work while adapting to the strange circumstances. Some are filming lessons to send to kids, others are writing personalized notes for their students while still others are working to facilitate online gatherings.
The common sentiment from administration and staff was that teachers will work hard to normalize these times for their students, as well as to find ways to continue to connect to their students while they might be physically distant.
In the Park City School District, for example, teachers, administrators and support staff are each being assigned a dozen or so students to check-in on to make sure they’re doing alright, Hooker said.
For Hooker, the co-president of Park City’s teacher’s union, it’s the small things that will be hardest to replace, the clubs that won’t meet and the students who have rough home lives who won’t be able to have a normal place to go during the day.
But she’s confident that teachers will do the best they can, a sentiment echoed by the district’s spokesperson.
“I am continually amazed at the dedication and commitment our employees have to do whatever it takes to ensure that students are educated whether it is at school or at home,” Colton said.
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