CARTHAGE, Mo. – 8th grader Ava Fullerton has some different classmates that she normally would. It’s her younger siblings Leah and Brady.
“It feels weird. Sometimes they make a lot of noise, sometimes they make less noise,” says Ava.
The three students haven’t been in a classroom since the winter weather started, aside from on Friday. Instead, they are spending their mornings at their kitchen table working on take home packets.
“We’re moving along just fine with our packets I think. We seem to be, they seem to be going okay,” says Heather Fullerton, Ava, Leah and Brady’s Mom. “The work that they’ve sent hasn’t kept us busy all day long, which I appreciate. When we get done with school work we watch a lot of movies… just enjoying each other.”
“The state of Missouri has allowed for AMI days, which is alternative methods of instruction. And so, we are able to provide instruction to our students while they are at home,” says Beth Hunt, the curriculum director for the Carthage School District. “It allows us to do what is in the best interest of everyone safety wise, and still make sure that we are able to provide learning opportunities.”
Learning from home isn’t a new concept in the four-states since that’s what most schools had to do in the Spring of 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Beth Hunt with the school district says this is different because the school district was much more prepared.
On Friday, February 12th, teachers sent work packets focusing on math, reading, science and social studies home with students so they could do them from home during the coming AMI days. Teachers also mailed packets to parents who couldn’t get to the school because of the weather.
Hunt also says teachers are emailing students and parents to check in and answer questions, and holding zoom meetings with students in higher grades.
And for the first time, the district has been able to go one-to-one at the high school, sending a Chromebook home with every high school student. Something that wouldn’t have happened if not for some luck.
“With the CARES Act money we purchased Chromebooks. And they finally came in in January. So it took us almost six months to get them,” says Hunt. “So this is the first time that we’ve been able to utilize the one-to-one Chromebooks for our high school students. Our teachers embraced it over the summer. They started getting trained. They started to utilize it on a limited basis, and so this has really been the first time we’ve been able to do a full roll out, and AMI days and have those available for our students.”
Having access to the Chromebooks means that students are able to follow their normal lesson plans — and it’s made it easier on teachers like high school math teacher Jennifer Wagoner.
“Especially last week with one of the programs that we use, I can actually go in and see exactly the last problem they were still working on. I took a picture of it, I pulled it into a program on my I-pad, wrote notes on it, and then sent it back to the kid,” says Wagoner. “More than the content, it’s just making sure that we’re keeping in contact with our students. And we’re gonna be understanding of issues that arise. And we just try to kind of keep the message out that we’re here, do what you can, that’s all we expect.”
Hunt explains that the work that students do at home will be graded and go toward their final grade for each class. She also explains that the state allows schools to use six AMI days for inclement weather, so right now students in Carthage will only need to make up one snow day.
Something Heather Fullerton thinks is great.
“We never had an AMI packet, and I can remember being out of school for some time when we would have weather in the winter when I was a kid. So I think they’re doing a really good job.”
Other area schools.
We reached out to the Webb City, Joplin and Carl Junction School Districts as well, but we were not able to get anyone with the district’s on camera for various reasons.
Tuesday was Carl Junction’s first full virtual learning AMI day, according to the districts media representative.
According to the Webb City School District’s Facebook page, Tuesday was their 5th AMI day.
Neosho School District is providing learning opportunities, but students aren’t being penalized if they can’t participate.
Tuesday was the Joplin School District’s second virtual learning day, according to the district Facebook page.
Most, if not all, of the school districts in southwest Missouri are closed on Wednesday, February 17th because of the weather.
Tips for learning from home.
Beth Hunt with the Carthage School District also gave us some tips to make learning from home easier for parents and teachers.
“We are suggesting to families to keep students on a routine and break their learning into smaller parts throughout the day, rather than multiple hours straight,” says Hunt. “Monitor screen time and reach out to teachers with any questions.”
The district has also created a tech help website that walks through how to use some of the different programs they use for virtual learning.
You can find a few more tips in this article by USA Today: