Manhattan High students seen Aug. 26. (USD 383 Twitter page – courtesy photo)

By Kelsey Bigelow

School is back in session, but with a much different look than usual.

Students and faculty have had to make adjustments heading into the school year due to the virus.

KMAN had the opportunity to speak Wednesday with a few teachers to discuss the school year so far. Samantha Roberts, an elementary teacher at Lee Elementary, says she was impressed with her students throughout the first week.

“I am first of all really proud of our students. We teach the youngest students, so kindergarten through sixth grade and I have not had any issues with behaviors, they have all wore their masks the way they are supposed to, and in general I am just really proud of them,” she said.

Roberts says they have had a few hiccups along the way, but that was to be expected. One major challenge that she found was the use of technology for some of the younger students.

Kent Smith, Anthony Middle School teacher, attested to some of the difficulties with technology during the first week of classes. He says it is important for parents, teachers and students to execute patience, especially during a time of uncertainty.

“When things don’t go well, understand that we know. We are working through that as well. Understand that we understand your frustration and we feel similar frustrations. Give us that time to work through it, understand that was the first week. Give me another week to work on that one link that isn’t working, give me another week to get my Canvas page up-to-date. Give us a little grace and we we’re gonna give you the grace. We’re working with our students. And give us that opportunity to continue to improve because that’s what we want to do,” Smith said.

The teachers say working together is going to be a key to success to create a positive learning environment for students.

Jennifer Karr, Manhattan High biology teacher spoke about the utilization of different online learning programs to create an environment best suited for students.

“We’re working through it, and I’m trying to utilize the features Zoom has, like breakout rooms to hopefully get more interaction between the kids so they are not just sitting and looking at me, but they are sharing their ideas with their classmates,” said Karr.

It is unknown when things will return to normal, so right now the message from teachers is to work together and try to create the best learning environment possible for the students.

School board hears from parents Wednesday

By Sam Hennigh

During Wednesday’s school board meeting, several parents vented their frustrations to board members about the hybrid model implemented for USD 383.

Roxanne Peterson is the parent of a first grader at Woodrow Wilson.  She says her son is not getting the same learning experience remotely as a student who is on site.
“My first grade group B student received one STEM assignment, one P.E. personality quiz and one music assignment since Friday. His only communication with his teacher is 5 to 10 minutes on a Zoom meeting in the morning, where she asks questions such as what his favorite food is in order to count attendance. That’s it. We hear nothing more,” she said.
Peterson says she has no way to gauge if her son is ready to go back to on site when his group does. She claims the board is putting teachers in an impossible position of teaching both on site and remote students.
Breva Spencer, a parent of three elementary school children, is concerned she has to focus all of her attention on her kids on the remote learning days.
“There is no way he can complete the assignments in Canvass on his own without someone reading to him and showing him exactly what needs to be done. As a working parent, it is not realistic for me to continue in this manner. The Canvass app is essentially the worksheets packets we received last spring, in a virtual format,” she said.
Board members responded with polarizing opinions between each other on how well the district has done with the hybrid model. The comments focused on the elementary level, stating the remote students were not receiving the same level of educational material as when on site. After hearing the comments,
Board Member Brandy Santos says she is frustrated and that there is a disconnect at the elementary level for remote learning.
“Our parents expected us to already have that ship built because they’ve been expecting that since March. I think we’ve failed them. We haven’t done what we need to do,” she said.
Santos she understands the board and administration is doing their best, but states their best is not enough. Board Member Jurdene Coleman says she was able to visit some other districts in other states that have a technology focus. From what she saw, even the top technical school had 18 months of training.
“If we take into consideration that we really didn’t even start planning this version of what we’re doing until after school ended, it’s not a surprise that we are where we are,” she said. “It’s not realistic to expect us to be stellar today when we started school last week. I think it’s unfair to say that we’ve failed.”
Coleman says she understands she comes from a position of not having a child at home, but says it is unrealistic to think the board could build a sustainable system in only three months.

The post USD 383 teachers, parents weigh in on first week of teaching in new format appeared first on News Radio KMAN.