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Keeping a Routine: Watauga County Students Learning From Home Until at Least May 15

By Nathan Ham

Students, parents, and educators across the state have had to figure out the best ways possible to keep children engaged in education as the COVID-19 coronavirus has put a stop to all in-person K-12 classes.

Watauga County Schools rolled out its Remote Learning Program and has tried to bring some normalcy to the lives of students across the county.

“Given the circumstances that they were dealing with, I could not be more impressed with the way that the information was organized to get to parents. Between the online resources and the notes that teachers put in bags and the bits of encouragement and outreach that they have had, it has been very impressive to see how they are trying to keep normalcy for kids that are craving normalcy,” said Boone Chamber of Commerce President David Jackson, who has two children enrolled in the county school system.

Jackson’s second-grade daughter gets excited each morning for the daily classroom Zoom meeting where she gets to interact with classmates.

“It’s a really cool way to keep them involved in a time where friend activities are limited. One of the highlights of her day is to be able to get on there and talk with her friends,” said Jackson.

Garret Price, the Director of Communications for Watauga County Schools, feels like the school system was well prepared for this and the program will keep students focused on education even though they might not be in their usual classroom setting.

“We’ve been very pleased with the kickoff of our Remote Learning Program and we’re off to a very good start! Like all the public schools in the state, remote learning is new ground for us in a lot of ways, but our teachers, principals and district leadership have adjusted very well to the change. Our curriculum and technology teams did incredible preparation in a short space of time to get us off to the best possible start, despite the unprecedented circumstances,” Price said. “Staff at all our schools worked very quickly in just a handful of days to prepare for parents to pick up student belongings and laptops to facilitate Remote Learning. We had three full days last week where each school distributed student possessions and packets of new instructional materials. Over the course of the week, we distributed over 2,000 laptop computers, bringing the total number of student devices being used at home right now to over 3,800.”

Jackson was also pleased with how quickly the school system was able to get everything put together for students.

“To get all of that organized for the thousands of children that the schools’ impact, the teachers and administrators are certainly among the many heroes of this whole thing. Kids certainly have anxieties about what they see their parents going through. Being able to return to educational normalcy has brought back some routine that they are definitely craving and I think they are enjoying how things are being presented to them thus far,” said Jackson.

The guidance provided to parents offers several tips including everything from physical exercise to taking proper breaks throughout the day.

Jackson says that the educators have really risen to the challenge that everyone is facing in this situation.

“The way that teachers have been interacting has been really cool to see. They have been making YouTube videos, emailing kids; art teachers are doing stuff, band teachers are doing stuff. Everybody is trying to make this as normal as possible,” he said. “The school system has been very upfront with communicating, saying they are here as a resource.”

Watauga County Schools have set up a website for remote learning resources for students and parents. That website can be found here.

Along with having to put together the remote learning program for K-12 students, the Watauga County School System has been working hard to provide meals for any child in Watauga County age 18 and under. There are seven sites across the county that provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the children.

If parents have any questions about how the school system is handling the coronavirus school closure, information and updates can be found here.