Reeds Spring Schools Just One District Trying To Figure Out The Rest Of The School Year
Schools across the Ozarks are still trying to figure out what the rest of the school year will look like. Some are using online learning. Others are just trying to meet the immediate needs of students and families.
The Reeds Spring School District falls into that last category.
Dr. Cody Hirschi is superintendent of Reeds Spring Schools. Right now they’re just taking things one week at a time, he said.
"We are taking just a slow approach just with the impact that COVID-19 has had on our entertainment and tourism community and struggling families and the unique demographic of our district and geographical size, you know, in terms of accessibility," he said.
The district has struggled with how to create equity of access to instruction and how to measure student learning in this unprecedented time, according to Hirschi.
"We're providing a lot of optional things for families that are needing it but also recognizing many families are just--they're struggling with a lot of different things," he said, "and so we don't want to put too much burden and stress load on parents."
The district isn’t placing any mandates on students and families, but instead, teacher teams are collaborating and providing instructional resources for them. Hirschi said printed activity sheets are given to families who come for food the district is handing out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Food distribution was held daily at first, but transportation was an issue for some families. Now, there are fewer distributions, but families get enough food for two days, and Hirschi said they’ve had more participation since they made the change. They’re now handing out more than 800 meals a day.
They’re taking things slow, listening to what their community wants and learning from other districts.
"Just kind of hearing some stories from others across the country that have jumped right in to like a mandated structure," he said. "We've seen some things that haven't gone so well. I know some districts in other states have done like a set schedule for kids at home where they have to log in at a certain time, and we're just kind of cautioning our teachers to do that--our teachers also have to take care of their own kids. There's just a lot of needs at home as well."
A big problem in the Reeds Spring district, as in other rural districts, is internet access. Laptops and iPads are available for families that want them as well as hot spot devices to allow for internet access. But Hirschi said those devices don’t work for all households. And even if they did, according to Hirschi, there’s a significant back order on them. Families are invited to access Wi-Fi in school parking lots.
No decision has been made as to whether or not students will go back to class this school year, according to Hirschi, but he’ll be surprised if they do. Hirschi said he and other area school superintendents are asking the Department of Education and education commissioner to come up with a unified approach to when school should be over this year in the state. And whether or not the Reeds Spring District will have summer school is also still unclear.
But despite all of the uncertainty, the district is finding ways to connect with families.
Each day, a staff member reads a picture book of their choice online. And the district offers a motivational video daily for secondary students.
"We've had essentially two goals," he said. "Love our students and love our parents and community and serve them, and so, that's been a neat way to kind of stay connected to people and have them stay connected to us."
The current situation has made everyone realize just how important schools are to their communities, he said.