JAY — Spruce Mountain schools are adapting to remote learning in the wake of coronavirus pandemic mandates.

Schools initially closed Monday, March 16, due to COVID-19. On March 31, Governor Janet Mills announced a stay-at-home order through at least April 30.

Spruce Mountain High School Prinicipal TJ Plourde said high school students have received academic work through one-to-one laptops.

“They are utilizing the many forms of academic support approved by the district,” he said. “For example, teachers will use the many methods associated with the Google platform approved by the district. Students also have the ability to receive hard copy packets of the same learning. The actual work is designed to extend the learning already provided prior to March 13. This learning has helped students and teachers reconnect and feel more comfortable with the new style of learning.”

Spruce Mountain Middle School Principal Greg Henderson said, “Our initial effort was making sure that students had the tools needed to stay connected to the school.  Almost all student families either picked up their school-supplied laptop or confirmed that they had their own device at home.

“Seventh and eighth grade teachers and students are using Google Classroom to post, share, communicate and respond to learning activities.  Sixth grade began with paper-based learning activities and are transitioning to Google Classroom next week.  It is important that the entire staff and student body be using a consistent platform.”

Spruce Mountain Elementary School Principal Pat St. Clair said, “Students received academic work through grade level packets in two-week chunks. Students received reading, writing, spelling, math, science, social studies, band lessons/music, art, music, and physical education.”

Plourde said teachers and students have a very flexible deadline for work completion.

“The material will be handed out on a two week cycle,” he said. “Students will have the two weeks to complete the assigned work. However, this deadline may be flexible due to the already harsh situation students and parents are having to deal with. We ask that students and parents continue to have open dialogue with their teachers and administration. Again, deadlines are very flexible.”

Henderson said plans are communicated to students and families one week at a time.

St. Clair said, “The first set of packets covered two weeks, which included the week of March 30th and April 6th. In saying that, we don’t want students at the elementary to spend more than 1.5 hours a day on their work.  This is a difficult time for many families and we don’t want to add stress to them.”

Plourde said all students are currently in contact with teachers, secretaries, and administration on a continuous basis through google classroom, email, phone, and video conferencing.

Henderson said, “The school is attempting to reach every student at least once per week to make sure they are safe, have food and to interact regarding learning activities.  Google Classroom, email, phone and video conferencing have all been utilized.”

St. Clair said elementary students are in contact with teachers through email, phone, videoconferencing, Class Tag, Remind, Google Classroom, and Class Dojo.

SMHS is preparing for the possibility of schools being closed beyond April and all situations associated with academics, Plourde said.

Henderson said the situation and how to best support students is very fluid.

St. Clair said things are being dealt with on a day-to-day basis.

For SMHS science teacher Donna Peare, the most challenging thing has been not seeing the students face-to-face.

“First, I miss them,” she said. “Second, when I see their face, I can make a judgment about whether they “get it,” or if I’m going too fast or too slow, or I can see the “lightbulb” moment.

“It’s a little better when we talk on the phone versus just exchanging emails.”

Henderson said, “SMMS staff have risen to the challenge of supporting students from a distance.  They are working hard every day to reach students to keep them connected to the school community.”

St. Clair said, “Missing the students, not being able to see them or being able to listen to everything they want to share. Also, creating grade level packets when we know that students have different learning styles and capabilities that need to be taken into account.”

The most surprising thing for Peare is how long it takes to give students feedback.

“I’ve committed to them that I will get back to them in 24 hours,” she said. “But each file I read and comment on takes two to three times longer than if I had the same thing on paper.”

Henderson noted, “It shouldn’t be that surprising, but it is noteworthy that we have heard from so many students that they miss being in school, miss seeing their teachers and friends and miss the routine and support that school provides.”


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