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Students in Ms. King’s Middle and High School Art classes revealed what COVID-19 meant to them through drawings. They were assigned the project virtually as part of Rising Sun’s e-learning endeavor. Their interpretations are heartbreakingly accurate.

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Summer break brings end to e-learning

A couple of months ago, students and staff at Rising Sun/Ohio County Community Schools were faced with a dilemma as traditional classroom learning was suddenly replaced with electronic or distance learning. It was an abrupt adjustment that had to be made when the national Coronavirus pandemic caused Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb to order schools closed.

This was also the reason for a reduction in the amount of days that students were required to attend. Superintendent Branden Roeder and his administration had some decisions to make. 

Although some surrounding counties opted to engage in e-learning five days each week and end their school year even earlier, Roeder and his team chose to have three-day school weeks to lighten the load on students and their parents. “We felt that going three days a week and allowing students seven days to complete their work would a

We understand that this has made parent’s lives more difficult and we want to provide more flexibility for when they work on assignments,” Roeder said.

They also decided that ending the school year too early would create a very large gap in instruction before the next school year which would be detrimental to the students. 

“The most challenging part for our staff has been not seeing the students and their colleagues,” said Roeder. 

He said that many of his classified and certified staff have personally explained to him how they are struggling with that part and said they are all ready to get back in the buildings. 

On a lighter note, Roeder said that this experience has given them the opportunity to grow. Teachers have had to adjust the way that they teach and some of the solutions will be things that they continue to implement. For example, some teachers are talking about flipping their classrooms as well as holding Zoom tutoring sessions in the future. “I can’t say how proud I am of our staff and students,” Roeder said. 

Candy Southard is a preschool teacher at Ohio County Elementary/Middle School and said, “It has been challenging to create weekly lessons that are fun and engaging which help to motivate both students and parents.” She went on to acknowledge that parents have been juggling work and taking care of their children and their homes. 

She said that many parents have had little or no time to help their children with school work. “Although students have not been learning the traditional way during the past couple of months, children are spending more time with their families and perhaps family relationships are stronger as a result,” said Southard. 

Parents in the Real People of Rising Sun Facebook group spoke out on the subject. Jenn Shelton said, “It’s been tough just adjusting to something new. The system had a lot of glitches, but the teachers were understanding.” 

Other parents expressed how their students were having a tough time learning electronically and thought maybe traditional paper and pencil would have helped. Although each teacher implemented their lessons a bit differently, Katie Perry said, “I believe the video classes before the work really seemed to help. If they get the instructions about the work then they do the work, it really seems to help.” 

Emily Ruzika has multiple children who attend Rising Sun Schools and feels that having all teachers implementing the same format for lesson delivery would have been helpful. 

“If it was consistent across the board, it would be a lot easier for parents with multiple children,” said Ruzika. 

Several others agreed with her reasoning, including Kyle Elam who suggested pre-recorded lessons from the teacher to force students to view arithmetic problem solving, grammar mechanics, and address any miscellaneous questions for other subjects. 

“When the parents scratch their heads on a child’s assignment and cannot provide guidance because the directions are unclear or common core mechanics are out of hand, that’s definitely where those pre-recorded plans could help,” said Elam. 

Even though these times have challenged all involved, the parents who spoke up seemed to be impressed by the way the teachers stepped up to handle a situation that was out of their control. 

“For not seeing this coming, no standard to go by, and creating this from scratch in what seems to be record timing, it’s impressive. The hard work that went into getting the kids what they needed did not go unnoticed,” said Johnna McGowan. 

“This isn’t easy on any of us. Really I think the main struggle is the kids need teachers,” she continued. McGowan had no problem admitting that teaching is not her cup of tea. She expressed her gratitude for the school staff and said that she sincerely hopes that in August we are able to go back to traditional ways of learning. 

The e-learning experience has clearly been a challenge for all involved, but hopefully we have all found some positives and realize that there is a light at the end of this tunnel.

The school year ended this week, but keeping students’ minds sharp is imperative for next year’s learning.