Districts move fast to teach and feed remote students

Bus drivers and volunteers deliver homework, breakfast, lunch and even SEL support
By: | March 19, 2020
In the St. Helena Parish School District in Louisiana, bus teams are bringing meals and remote learning to students on regular bus routes.In the St. Helena Parish School District in Louisiana, bus teams are bringing meals and remote learning to students on regular bus routes.

Providing distance learning and school meals in districts with less-affluent families required leaders and their teams to find creative solutions to provide uninterrupted support to their students.

In the St. Helena Parish School District in Louisiana, the grab-and-go systems created by many districts would not adequately serve all working families or those without transportation to reach distribution locations, Superintendent Kelli Joseph says,

“A situation like this truly sheds light on the inequities kids face every day,” Joseph says. “We maximized the resources we already had and we didn’t skip a beat.”

Before schools closed, St. Helena’s educators and staff put together school meal bags for students to take home. Once buildings closed, the district shifted to using bus drivers and an aide to travel regular routes to deliver breakfast and lunch each day.

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Some volunteers, including those from the local Pine Grove fire department, are even delivering meals door-to-door in some cases.

“We are also delivering the assignments kids need to complete,” Joseph says. “They can also submit assignments through bus drivers so teachers can have access to all work and grade it.

“We’re trying to keep things business as usual, except in a different way,” Joseph added.

Joseph’s team installed new Wi-Fi access points at all school buildings so parents can park at schools to get on the internet. The district was also looking into providing low-cost, take-home Wi-Fi hotspots to families, Joseph says.

Teachers are keeping up with social-emotional learning, albeit remotely.

On St. Helena’s PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports) days, teachers called students, sent shout-outs to parents and even delivered goodie bags via the bus teams.

“It’s just about trying to provide equity in a situation that we know is inequitable,” Joseph says.

How blizzard bags help during coronavirus

SAU 67, the Bow and Dunbarton School Districts in New Hampshire, had prepared blizzard bags for snow days this winter and gave them to elementary school students as soon as the state shut down schools.

At the same time, middle and high school students jumped right into remote learning, Superintendent Dean Cascadden says.

High school students worked on a regular, yet remote, class schedule with live instruction from teachers.

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“We felt it was important for high schoolers to have a schedule and a routine,” Cascadden says.

Middle schoolers, meanwhile, did most of their work asynchronously, with teachers creating videos and running chat rooms for their classes, Cascadden says.

To continue to distribute learning materials, the district handed them out to families in a drive-thru approach at school buildings and had buses deliver assignments to other homes.

Cascadden district has pledged to also support its staff.

“One of the big decisions our school board made is we are going to pay people,” Cascadden says.  “We’re going to pay our educational aides, we’re going to pay bus drivers, we’re going to pay everyone who works in the system, and we’re going to figure out what they’re going to do for work because people are willing to jump in.”

After the quick shift to remote learning, the district’s educators were preparing to figure out next steps, such as how to assess students remotely.

“We’re never going to go totally back to normal,” Cascadden says. “The things we’re going to learn by doing this are things we’re going to say, ‘OK, let’s keeping doing this.'”

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