Education in the time of COVID-19
Tomahawk, St. Mary’s schools adapt to continue teaching students during Safer at Home order
By Jalen Maki
Tomahawk Leader Co-Editor
TOMAHAWK – The School District of Tomahawk and St. Mary’s School have had to think outside the box to make sure their students continue to learn during the statewide shutdown of K-12 schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From online lessons to work packets, both schools outlined the steps they’ve taken to provide their homebound students with an education.
School District of Tomahawk
In an update compiled collectively by staff, the School District of Tomahawk explained that it began preparing plans for “the Continuity of Learning” in the fall of 2019 after harsh weather patterns forced the District to close for many days during the 2018-2019 school year.
The District utilized PI 8, a state administrative rule that was “modified to spur innovative ways to engage students and teachers outside of the traditional day and place through virtual options for learning.” Reasons virtual learning would be used include snow or other inclement weather, professional development, widespread illness, and flooding, the District explained.
“Due to the difference in the required instructional hours set by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction by grade level, we primarily focused our planning on the Middle School and High School levels,” the District said. “However, we were unable to predict this plan would be tested by a health emergency that would take our elementary students out of school beyond their minimum time as well.”
The District is using two formats, Print Materials and Virtual Environments, to continue educating students during the Continuity of Learning. How these formats are used varies, depending on grade level, subject area, and teacher.
Print Materials include reading material and ways to reflect and respond, writing projects, directions to educational games and activities in all content areas, and art projects, along with music and PE suggested activities and practice guidance.
“Virtual Environments utilize district-sponsored learning management systems (LMS),” the District said. “The LMS serves as an online environment where teachers post learning materials and activities. The LMS also provides other capabilities for students and teachers to communicate electronically, submit completed work and assess student learning.”
Utilized by grades 4 through 12, Virtual Environments may include live and recorded classroom instruction, individual student and small group conferencing with teachers utilizing video, phone and student email, simulations and labs, web-based learning experiences and coursework (teacher and program designed), student discussion groups utilizing video and message boards, online writing assistance, academic and career planning activities, and enrichment opportunities.
Additional services, such as special education services or math or reading interventionists, are still available throughout the Continuity of Learning. The school counselor, school social worker and school psychologist have been reaching out and providing resources to students and families to support unique needs, the District said.
The District is continuing to offer free meal curbside pickups at the school on Mondays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. for meal coverage of breakfast and lunch for both Monday and Tuesday, and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. for meal coverage of breakfast and lunch for Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
“The mission of the School District of Tomahawk is to ‘Empower all students to be socially responsible, life-long learners in an ever-changing world,’” the District stated. “COVID-19 has presented some unique challenges to our current school year. As our situation continues to change rapidly each day, our district remains committed to putting our mission into action.”
For more information, see “School District of Tomahawk frequently asked questions” below.
School District of Tomahawk frequently asked questions
Where do I pick-up/drop-off print materials?
There will be no scheduled drop off for print materials at this time. Look for further direction to follow for changes.
What if I have a technology issue?
Go to the District website to check technology troubleshooting tips (www.tomahawk.k12.wi.us/covid19/ChromebookTroubleshootingTips3-18-2020.pdf). If the technology issue is still not resolved, please contact Mrs. Paula Norman at email@example.com to arrange individualized assistance.
Where should I go to receive information and communication from the district?
Check the District COVID-19 resource page (www.tomahawk.k12.wi.us/district/covid-19-updates-and-information.cfm) for updated information.
Where do I find additional resources for social-emotional support?
SEL resources for parents/families: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1XjyvEog5qiP2m-Q6MbKF_GFuCdckw5DZ9ASjkLU6rnQ.
How do I return and/or continue to check-out library materials?
You can return library books you have by either dropping them off by door #8. Please watch for updates around library book access in the future. All students know how to access e-books. If a student has few books at home and limited internet access disallowing e-book access, we will find a way to get you reading material. Please contact your school librarian.
- High school: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Middle school: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Elementary school: email@example.com
What if I am not receiving communication from the district?
Check to see that your information in Family Access (Skyward) is current and accurate. If unable to update your Family Access information in Skyward, contact your school’s office for assistance.
What if I am done with my work and still looking for something to do?
Please take this time to stay connected with people, especially your family at this time. We encourage you to be ‘device-free’ for a large portion of your day. If you have run out of work and want to continue to learn, there are some amazing free resources and virtual field trips linked on the District Resource page (www.tomahawk.k12.wi.us/district/educational-resources.cfm).
St. Mary’s School
St. Mary’s School has been utilizing a combination of online work along with packets sent home to students, according to Principal Rita Lee.
Students currently have work, schedules, and instructions to take them through Easter break, Lee explained. The school may adjust plans slightly after the break to accommodate both staff and students, depending on guidelines from the state and the Department of Public Instruction.
Lee said the school understands distance learning can be stressful for some families, especially those with parents working from home, or in homes where internet access is limited.
“We also have families with parents who are still working out of the home and have limited time when they get home in the evening to help their children while still making supper, and doing normal household routines,” Lee stated. “We have been communicating to our families that is important to take a break when it is needed. Our families’ mental and physical health are important priorities right now, too. We have to remember to focus on that as well. All students across the state are experiencing the same circumstances right now.”
Lee said teachers are working just as long and sometimes longer hours to find solutions, accommodations, and enrichments for students to make this workable for all families. The school is hosting online story times, Morning Prayer on Facebook, and is working “to continually have opportunities to connect with (students).”
“As a staff I can tell you we miss our students!” Lee said.