DES MOINES, Iowa – Parents and teachers are learning how to accept a new normal as schools remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.
Governor Kim Reynolds announced Friday public schools will not reopen until the fall semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Des Moines Public School Special Education Teacher Whitnie Grimes said, “It’s extremely weird. It’s weird not being able to see the kids physically.”
Johnston Community Schools is one of the many districts that have opted for a voluntary educational enrichment opportunity providing students with optional learning content at the beginning of each week.
Johnston Community Schools Educational Mentor Jessie Todd said the district’s main focus is prioritizing what matters the most for their students.
“Our big focus was priority and we talked a lot about grace for the teachers delivering this content, grace for the students learning it and just flexibility that things are going to look different and we are all going to have to be OK with that,” Todd said.
Todd said the district understands learning may not take place during traditional school hours and each family should find a time to work on optional content when it fits best in their schedule.
“Don’t feel like you have to do every single thing, but if you can, great, and if you can’t, just focus on what really matters and I think you’ll do a good job,” Todd said.
Todd said if some content isn’t completed during the remainder of the school year, parents can use the material during the summer so students are better prepared for the 2020-2021 school year.
South Hamilton Art Teacher Ashley Willits said the transition into a virtual classroom has made her think outside the box for how to reach students.
“It’s made me think about how can I teach to every single student. So a kid that only has a pencil and paper compared to a kid that might have enormous amounts of paint at home. How can I teach to both of them,” Willits said.
In addition to optional schoolwork, teachers recommend students learn life skills such as yard work and cooking.
“When we do go back to school, you want it to be an easy transition, and the only way for it to be an easy transition is if you can keep up with that work, even a couple tasks a day. They don’t have to be tough,” Willits said.
Reynolds asks districts across the state to submit a “Return to Learn” plan to the Iowa Department of Education by July 1. The plan is for when schools eventually reopen and will include summer school or flexible fall return dates.