Daily In-Person Instruction Returns
K-8 students how learning 5 days per week on campus
No one can fault Lakewood students and staff for humming a popular Beatles tune with a slight lyric adjustment to “5 Days a Week; we la – ah -ove school!”. Students in kindergarten through 8th grade learning on campus five days a week started this month.
The school board decided in a resolution, on April 19th to return students to in-person learning for full-weeks. This shift was made possible by the state Department of Health cutting in half the space required by schools for social distancing in classrooms. The unanimous School Board decision followed an emotional meeting where more than 100 parents, students, staff and community members spoke on both sides of the proposal.
As a lifelong Lakewood resident, the response to COVID over the past 15 months made School Board Director Leaha Boser proud of her school district and of her community.
“Lakewood families really stepped up.”
School Board Director
When word of the March 2020 shutdown reached Lakewood, there was a lot of uncertainty, she said. “I worried about our families. Many were used to dropping their kids off at school and going to work,” she explained. Boser saw example after example of neighbors stepping up to help each other. “Message after message were offers to watch each other’s children. Lakewood families really stepped up,” she remembered.
She believes the district did as much as it could as quickly as it could considering the evolving COVID situation. From remote to hybrid and now to on-campus learning, Lakewood moved forward. Lakewood is one of the first school districts in the area to return to 5-day a week instruction. “We can’t dismiss any opportunity for in person education even if it is only for a few weeks,” she said.
Precautions in place
In addition to her School Board service, Boser is also the mother of two students. She reports both her children are happy to be back on campus full-time. Desks have been rearranged in classrooms to accommodate the larger class sizes. Elementary students stay among their classmates for most of the day. About half the school remains in their classroom for lunch and other sit six feet apart in the cafeteria. At the middle school, in addition to eating in the cafeteria and library, a large event tent has been added to ensure students maintain social distancing.
Windows are kept open to allow greater air flow on school buses. Riders are regularly assigned to seats. Siblings are regularly seated together. Without siblings on the route, children are seated by grade level to keep cohort groups together. Bus drivers take attendance for each route in case contact tracing is needed should a COVID case be confirmed among the riders.
Another custodian was added to the district team to ensure clean spaces. Ventilation systems were upgraded prior to the March start of the hybrid learning model. Personal protection equipment (PPE) is abundant. COVID testing is available and contact tracing protocols are in place. A new covid dashboard is online to track the situation across the district in real time. Visit the dashboard https://tinyurl.com/LWSD-Dashboard.
Reminding students how fun learning is
“Oh my gosh, we are so happy,” said Sue Krause, a reading teacher at Lakewood Elementary School, of students on campus every day. “It is great to have our students together for this last bit of the school year to remind them how fun learning is and what a great place school is.”
Unfortunately, confirmed COVID illness among teenagers in our community halted Lakewood High School’s return. High school students will continue in the hybrid schools of learning on campus two-days per week. That schedule was revised to allow 6 classes per day. In addition, students will also be checking in online for each period during their remote learning days. The new schedule doubles the number of time teachers and high school students interact.
While disappointing, having students on the high school campus for any amount of time is a joy to Jeanette Grisham Lakewood High’s principal “It has been amazing to see and hear our students on campus again,” she enthused. Grisham reports her students are conscientious about wearing masks and on social distancing during travel between classes and at lunch.
“I am confident we will be able to support our students moving forward.”
Lakewood High School Principal
About 100 of the more than 800 high school students enrolled have chosen to study fully online. Families made that decision for a variety of reasons, Grisham said. She added that it has been an adjustment for students and staff as each has adapted to this evolving worldwide issue.
“Are there going to be gaps?” she said. “Of course, there are. I am confident we will be able to support our students moving forward.”
Filling inevitable gaps
One of the ways to help fill those inevitable gaps is with additional instruction this summer. Surveys are underway to learn how many families are interested in Summer School. With ample interest, Lakewood plans to offer sessions for students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Transportation will also be available. As it has been for many years, students with learning challenges will continue to be offered extended instruction as will high school students needing to recover credits or wishing to move ahead. The cost of Summer School is expected to be reimbursed by federal funds.
Certainly, there have been challenges during COVID but there have also been positives, Krause believes. She used the word “brave” to describe the many adaptations students and staff had to negotiate to keep learning strong. “We don’t always think of ourselves that way, but this was a year of resiliency,” Krause said adding with a smile that children may have been better at resiliency at times than the adults.
One positive and unexpected outcome of remote learning has been improved family engagement. Even though it was online, she was in her students’ homes and often parents or other family members were there or nearby. It reminded Krause of the stronger connection she felt with her students when Krause made home visits. “I am hopeful we can find ways to maintain that connection as we move forward,” she advocated.
She also hopes students value school in a way they may not have before. After the challenges of COVID she knows that she certainly does.
Hum along … 5 days a week definitely shows Lakewood cares!