On Friday, March 13, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert announced a two-week “soft closure” of all Utah public schools beginning March 16 to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
But while the classrooms would be closed, the learning would go on.
The governor gave schools two days to make plans for instructing their students through other means. As a result, Nebo School District teachers and other personnel spent Monday and Tuesday preparing video lessons and other methods of online instruction as well as take-home packets in order to begin distance education for students on Wednesday.
At Park Elementary School in Spanish Fork on Tuesday, recently sanitized Chromebooks were stacked up on tables in the lunchroom ready for checkout to students who needed a device to access their work online.
Nebo School District Community Relations Specialist Lana Hiskey said the district has enough electronic devices to accommodate every student who needs one.
“We’ve got teachers making videos so they can interact with their kids at home through video,” Hiskey said, adding that students would be able to do their work online or through packets picked up at their school.
In her Park Elementary classroom Tuesday morning, third-grade teacher Bristi Poulson was putting together packets of math worksheets for her students. She had already made videos for the students to watch that would guide them through the worksheets.
Poulson said students at her school would be accessing the videos through Google Classroom, where teachers could also post assignments and grade them.
“We’re also making some videos so we can say hi to the kids every day and that we miss them and that we’re thinking about them,” Poulson said.
Poulson became emotional when asked how she felt about the situation.
“My first thoughts were like, oh no, I didn’t get to say goodbye” to her students, she said.
While they may miss seeing their students in person, Poulson said she felt prepared for the situation. “It’s a lot, but we’re good,” she said. “I’m happy to take on the challenge. Honestly, it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”
While she was preparing math lessons for Park’s third-graders, the school’s other two third-grade teachers were working on lessons about science and social studies incorporating literacy instruction.
Park’s Title I coordinator helped out through making a “get to know Google Classroom” video, something anyone using Google Classroom could utilize, Poulson said.
“Our school really works well together,” she said.
Hiskey said Nebo’s collaboration days have helped the district prepare for the current situation. Years ago, Nebo schools began dismissing early one day a week to provide time for teachers to meet with other colleagues and discuss how to improve student learning.
“These collaboration days … really have moved this forward because they’re used to working together in teams, they’re used to sharing across curriculum, and not just school wide,” Hiskey said. “We have team leaders from each school meeting together district-wide and sharing best practices, and that’s why we’re able to get this rolled out so quickly.”
The district also has digital coaches with expertise in cutting-edge technology who can instruct other teachers how to teach online.
Hiskey said if any Nebo students haven’t heard from their teacher by Friday morning, they or their parent should contact their school.
Parents can obtain the most current and accurate Nebo School District information from their school or by visiting the district’s web site at nebo.edu.