Calhoun City Schools undaunted by distance learning

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For Calhoun City Schools, the last two weeks of distance learning, despite the quick implementation, has been “outstanding,” according to Michelle Taylor, Superintendent of Calhoun City Schools.

Calhoun City Schools

Michelle Taylor, Superintendent of Calhoun City Schools says her staff, students, and parents have worked together to make distance learning work.

“Our leadership team has done an outstanding job working with our students, staff and parents to continue learning as our buildings have closed,” she said. “Calhoun City Schools’ parents have been rockstars.  They are communicating their needs with teaches and the schools and we are working together to make the best of this evolving situation.”

Governor Brian Kemp ordered schools to remain closed for the remainder of the school year on April 2. Included in that is all spring sporting events, including some recruiting events, according the Georgia High School Association.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that can cause illness in animals and humans. Some coronaviruses commonly circulate in the United States and usually cause upper respiratory symptoms such as cough or runny nose, although some can cause more serious illness. The 2019 novel (new) coronavirus causes the illness coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

What is COVID-19?

Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a disease that was identified in Wuhan, China, and is now being spread throughout the world. People are encouraged to take common-sense precautions to prevent the spread of all infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

According to the Georgia Department of Health website, Gordon County currently has 21 cases, including two deaths. Georgia has 6,160 cases, 201 deaths, and 1,239 hospitalizations related to the virus.

Technology focus

The system has 4,200 students from preschool to 12th grade and 92-percent, or 3,864 with internet access and 73-percent or 3,066 with access to an electronic device. Taylor said they have sent Chromebooks and iPads to the students who needed them.

calhoun city schools

While they can’t meet like they did in this earlier photo, Calhoun City Schools will continue to foster Yellow Jacket spirit despite school buildings being closed.

“We are hopeful that this gap will decrease by the end of the week,” she said, adding they are encouraging all students to move to the online platform so they will not have to use paper packets.

Mike Afdahl is over technology for the students and encourages parents and students who need Chromebook support to complete a Google Form, offered in Spanish and English.

Families receiving Free-and-Reduced lunch can apply for Internet with AT&T and Comcast. Normally $5 or $10, those companies are offering their low-income access free for 60 days.

Calhoun City Schools have been distance learning since March 18, after schools were closed on March 18. The original plan was to re-open the schools on March 31, but as the COVID-19 cases increased, the date was moved further and further back until the decision was made to close schools for the remainder of the school year.

“We had a relatively smooth start,” said Taylor.. “Teachers and staff designed and produced content overnight and we had a plan in place on Friday (March 13), and finalized the plan on the 17th to roll out to families on the 18th.”

She said her concern at the moment is teachers and students will need more time to acclimate to the new delivery model.

Keeping the spirit alive

Calhoun City Schools

Calhoun City Schools mascot.

Anyone living in Calhoun can attest to spirit radiating from Calhoun City Schools. The Yellow Jackets are a solid part of the landscape in the city and keeping that spirit alive during the pandemic is important.

“We’ve had ‘Learn from Home’ Spirit Week where we try to connect with students and family through fun, spirited days. Students and parents have sent us photos and videos to post online and on social media,” Taylor said.

Graduation concerns being heard

The question all seniors and their parents have, regardless of system, is “Will there be a graduation ceremony?”

For Taylor, is imperative that seniors get their night.

“Calhoun City Schools’ Board of Education is committed to recognizing the Class of 2020 at a graduation ceremony,” she said.

However, safety is an issue and one that can’t be ignored or compromised.

“We’re not sure of the date but we will host the graduation ceremony when it is safe to do so.”

calhoun city schools

Calhoun seniors will have graduation, but the date has yet to be determined.

Graduation isn’t the only question facing seniors and to some extent, juniors. SAT testing has been cancelled through May with the earliest possible testing dates to be in June. However, even the June dates aren’t set in stone as the testing centers monitor the situation.

“We fully expect seniors will move forward with scholarship application and an honors ceremony to announce scholarship recipients will be held either online or at a ceremony when safe to do so.”

Students with special needs

For students with special needs, who often receive a variety of extra assistance, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy, support is continuing. Head of special education, Hayley Gilreath said teachers, therapists and service providers are making daily and weekly contact with students using Remind, telephone, Zoom and Google meetings. Those using special communication devices are receiving additional support. Those unable to access the technology due to their disability have been receiving packets, manipulatives and tasks to complete at home.

School psychologists and diagnosticians are keeping in touch with all parents whose child is in the process of an evaluation and the school will complete the evaluations if they have enough data and will hold others until school is back in session.

Meetings have continued, with 12 annual Individual Educational Plan (IEPs) meetings being conducted by phone conference or other virtual tools. The nurses are also staying in touch with medically fragile students.

Food deliveries

The schools have provided 34,018 meals so far, including breakfast and lunch over the past two weeks. According to Kim Kiker, the schools will deliver six breakfasts and six lunches on Friday, April 3 to cover spring break. Then starting on April 13, they will decrease to three deliveries per week to limit employee exposure. The plan is to deliver a hot breakfast, hot lunch, cold breakfast, cold lunch on Monday for Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, they will deliver a hot breakfast and lunch and on Thursday, they will deliver a hot breakfast and lunch along with a cold breakfast and lunch for Friday.

Maintenance and renovations

Work continues at the city schools, according to Tom Griffith, head of the department. Some summer priorities have been moved up that can accomplished while the buildings are closed to students and teachers. For instance, HVAC systems are being replaced, work continues on the medical clinic, and the middle school gym was recently finished.

Future plans for distance learning

As for the future, Taylor said she sees distance learning becoming a part of the education system in Calhoun City schools.

“Our teachers are becoming more comfortable with online learning an see the benefits for providing a “flipped” classroom to assist students at school and at home. We will definitely use online learning for future inclement weather days.”

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