Monroe County Schools is still experiencing “small spikes” in COVID cases.

According to Monroe County Schools Director DeAnna McClendon, the spikes tend to follow athletic events or from having gatherings during school breaks.

“We are not having so much transfer from student to student,” McClendon said. “We are having more transfer from someone at home contracting COVID and they’re giving it to a student.”

She believes the school’s plans to combat COVID have been working to prevent the spread of the virus while the students are at school.

The county schools are adjusting to utilizing the virtual learning aspect more as well.

“This is a time where you really have to be made of tough stuff to be a teacher because right now our teachers have their virtual students who are at home, may have their traditional brick and mortar students who are in the classroom with them, and then if we have students that have to go into quarantine then our teachers are having to make packets or material for those particular students as well,” she explained. “I think that we are always going to have a virtual option moving forward and I think we will be thinking through synchronous learning, meaning our teachers have cameras now so that students can actually watch the lessons from home now.”

That option was delayed due to the school board having to order the cameras as well as computers for the students.

“Our devices are supposed to be here between November and December, so then we will assign and distribute those to our students,” she noted.

Students who have opted for virtual learning have to maintain a nine-week course before being presented the option to continue virtual learning or return to the classroom.

Some of the comments McClendon has received from parents about virtual learning is difficulty with the system.

“I don’t think the parents were expecting the academic rigor that was in the virtual setting,” McClendon said. “It is very hard and rigorous, which we know we will have to have academic rigor whether you are in the classroom or whether you are online.”

She has noticed that the virtual learning option was “better suited” for older students who are around the high school level.

“I sat with a couple of students the other day at the alternative school and they were using the program (for virtual learning),” she stated. “I would say, especially in the younger grades, they really need an adult to sit with them because they have to listen to everything that is happening on screen, practice and respond and it is difficult for children to keep their focus.”

She also viewed high school students participating in virtual classes.

“At the high school level it seems that they were navigating through the courses better,” she said. “I followed one of the students and she seemed to be going through the material pretty well.”

Some students opted to return to classroom instruction over virtual back when school started back up.

“I think the students are very happy to be back and we are very grateful for that,” she stated. “We have seen from our children and families that they need that normalcy, that routine.”

The school board has also been practicing “Remote Learning Day” for teachers to “interface” more with struggling students at home.

“The teachers have three different sets of students that they are trying to keep on track (in person, virtual, quarantine) and keep their grades up,” she noted. “These are unprecedented times for our teachers so we need to think of how we can support our teachers so that they can support our students.”

The county schools will soon be starting its second nine weeks.

“I think that it will be crucial that we maintain our social distancing practices, I think we need to make sure everything is as clean as it possibly can be, and that we think through what education has looked like during these unprecedented times,” McClendon said. “We all just have to work together as a team and a community to make sure that we are keeping everyone as safe and healthy as possible, that we think through the burdens being placed on our educators, and we ask that the community have some patience with the school system.”

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