By Keith Skenandore
In a letter e-mailed to students on April 29, the School District of Shiocton announced plans for making up important events that had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school district summarized the plan by listing various plans from Plan A (earliest possible) to Plan C or D (latest possible). The school district emphasized that they hope to hold each event at the earliest date possible, however it all depends on Governor Evers’ mandates.
Superintendent Nichole Schweitzer said this plan was a group effort involving administrators who heard from the school board, parents and students on what they would like to see happen with the remainder of the school’s year-end activities.
“We really all want the kids to be able to have something as close as possible to that traditional graduation experience,” Schweitzer said. “We want the children to be able to walk across the stage, to be recognized, to receive their diploma and to have their tassel turned. We want the valedictorian and salutatorian to be able to share their messages with their classmates.
“As much as we are able to, we wanted to put those dates out in hope that by one of those dates, hopefully sooner than later, we will be able to somehow get together in person and give them that experience.”
Schweitzer added the same goes for prom, national honor society induction, senior awards and eighth grade celebration.
“Those kids, they all want that experience,” she said.
As superintendent, she, along with other administrators struggled with only having the one date, and if that date didn’t work, they would have to cancel.
“I don’t believe that is a service to our students in any regard,” Schweitzer said. “It’s up to us to show them how to positively react when something doesn’t go the way it was planned.”
Unfortunately one event that has been postponed is the high school drama production. That has been postponed until fall.
All this planning and other changes for all Wisconsin schools began when Governor Tony Evers closed their doors on March 18. The doors were to possibly re-open on April 24, but with his extension, schools are now closed for the remainder of their academic season.
With that in mind, Schweitzer said they were not reactionary to Evers’ order, but proactive as they had already begun to plan for digital learning days (DLD). This planning was in preparation for any bad winter weather conditions which could close school for a few days.
“We had already started in December gearing up and preparing our staff to run DLD,” Schweitzer said. “Our teachers were already learning how to broadcast out their instruction.”
The teachers learned how to utilize Google Classroom, Edmodo and Google Docs to facilitate the instruction, as well as Peer Shared, Peer Edit, along with other forms of connection such as Google Hangouts and Zoom.
“In fact, many teachers have practiced using DLD in their classroom before we were told about the closure,” Schweitzer said.
The school district was in a very good spot when the first announcement of the closure came out on Friday, March 13. Schweitzer said their plan was as the kids returned on Monday, March 16, to make sure they had their Chromebooks, chargers, bags and such, plus all the work they are going to need, in order to be out until April 6.
They also did one last refresher checking emails and Google Classroom to make sure everything was up and running.
On March 17, the teachers finalized their instructional plans to make sure their own home computers or computers taken from the school were working in their homes.
“On Wednesday, March 18, we launched,” Schweitzer said, “and we’ve been rolling since. As a whole our kids are learning. Our teachers are educating the students by using these new platforms and these new tools.
“They’re all finding new ways to ensure the instruction and the learning that is taking place.”Imagine having an art, music or home economics class. What will there homework be like?
Well, for Family and Consumer Science teacher Julie Gomm, the class must go on and she has her students cooking recipes with the ingredients that she delivers.
Gomm said on the weekend when they figured a school shut down was coming she hit the stores and made packages for the students to take home with flour and yeast for their next lab.
“They all made bread,” said Gomm. “Some families liked that because that’s when the stores were hit hard and you couldn’t find bread in the store.”
In her world of food class, one lab assignment was for the students to make a recipe that their family would like. Gomm, along with a paraprofessional, would jump in a school van and go grocery shopping for the dishes selected then returned to the school to divide all the needed ingredients, which included measuring, and hit the road and deliver the ingredients to her students’ homes.
“The students were to make the recipe and take pictures throughout the process,” Gomm said. “One (picture) of the ingredients, one of them during the midway point and one of that final product.
“Trying to get that money shot that makes you go, ‘Oh that looks good.’”
Her students were also required to write a food blog and practice taking pictures of food of whatever they would prepare for breakfast, lunch or a snack, and do research on their eats. They would finally write a blog post of their recipes
“I had things like shepherd’s pie, pastitsio (greek lasagna) and black forest cake,” said Gomm. They tried some international dishes and turned them into a blog post.”
The posts were written to entice people.
“When people got done reading it they would think, ‘That looks like something I could do,’” she added.
Gomm said their latest lab at home was fresh pasta.
The school’s delivery service has gone one step further. As like most schools, meals are being delivered to the students, however, this is being done by the district’s school busing. About 750 meals are being delivered daily, which according to Schweitzer, was a way of keeping staff employed as much as possible.
“On Monday, March 23, we started delivering meals, breakfast and lunches, using our bus drivers and running our bus routes” Schweitzer said. “As we started delivering meals, we thought, you’re going past this person’s house any ways so can you drop off these art supplies, can you drop off these academic supplies or these library books.
“Our staff has been incredible and truly exemplifying the phrase, ‘Thinking outside the box.’ The kids get to see somebody they know and it gets their day off to a great jump start.”
As for the forthcoming final grades, Schweitzer said they are pretty much set.
“The teachers are again teaching the content and the material and they are assessing on that same content and material,” she said. “They’re manipulating what those assessments have to look like, but for the most part, we’re going forward with ‘we’re teaching, you’re learning and I’m assessing what you’re teaching and learning.’ The grades are the grades.”
That said, Schweitzer added they are keeping an eye on how the grades this semester could potentially negatively or positively impact GPA’s.
“We’ll decide by the end of the year what do we do about that,” she said. “Everybody that we have spoken with, the teachers and kids, the grades are the grades and they’re earning them.”
She added that some students are doing phenomenally well for various reasons.
“The stimuli and the distractions within the classroom are not there,” Schweitzer said. “The ability to work at their own pace now is completely within their grasp.
“Some kids are just really thriving.”
Whatever the school district does grade wise, Schweitzer says they need to take into account those students who have raised their grades from a C to a B and those who are at a C to a borderline C-D.
“How do we do that for both of those kiddos and everybody in between,” she said. “Right now we are holding our pattern of standard grading.”
According to Schweitzer, none of this could be done without the support of the parents.
“I would just like to give a great shout out to our parents and our community as a whole who has just been very, very supportive of everything we are trying to do,” Schweitzer said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s been easy but through it all they really supported us, the teachers as they are trying to teach, and their kiddos as they are trying to learn.
“We really want to recognize that.”