COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — With public schools closed since mid-March, teachers and administrators in southern Colorado schools are encouraging students to continue their lessons through e-learning where lessons are recorded on video and school materials can be accessed online. However, a fairly large number of local students lack either internet access or a home computer to download those lessons.
Dr. Michael Thomas, Superintendents of Schools for Colorado Springs District 11, said a recent parent survey revealed roughly 15% of families were in the category of not having an internet capable device at home. So, many districts has been printing paper copies of the work and either mailing it to families or having them pick up the packets on a weekly basis.
"This is truly a situation where were building a new plane mid-flight and then getting onto that plane."
A student's education from home can differ from family to family.
Elissa Brost, a 4th grade teacher at Henry Elementary, said her students had been using laptops months before the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I was very lucky, I was given a Chromebook cart in November, and because this is a second career, I come from the tech industry, I really embraced it," Brost said.
While she's been uploading videos and using online tools to distribute assignments, Brost said she also implemented a Freaky Friday Fun day to just to use the technology to help connect with her students so they don't feel so isolated.
Christina Gillette Randle, a 1st Grade Teacher at Soaring Eagles Elementary in Harrison District 2 said about half of her students prefer to pick up the weekly printouts at the school. While many have computer at home, there's an older piece of technology that's missing: a printer.
"We realized, some people (1) prefer to have a paper packet, and (2) they just don't have access to a printer or anything," she said.
Like Brost, Gillette Randle likes to use her computer time to connect with students in video chat session. One recent session evolved from students sharing a writing project to giving their teacher a lesson in Pokemon.
Dr. Thomas said District 11 recently received another shipment of laptops purchased before the crisis as part of the voter approved mill levy override. The IT office is still getting the software updated before they will be distributed to middle and high school students.
He said many families who previously did not have internet access have taken advantages of offers for free or low-cost internet service. However, there can be scheduling delay in getting that service installed. So, the district boosted the range of the wifi signal from routers within the school buildings.
"So, if you have a device and you need wifi access, you can drive safely in your car and you know, keep a safe distance in the parking lot and get free wifi access in our school parking lots, many of them."
One common problem that Brost and Gillette Randle have encounter is sharing a device. Families with two or more siblings enrolled in school often need to use the same home computer for their assignments. Brost said recording video lessons can help families facing that problem.
"If the lessons are all recorded, then those students can log in through different times throughout the day and it's not one kid gets to learn over another," she said.
In the interest of keeping education uniform, Gillette Randle said that Harrison teachers are not introducing new concepts this quarter. Instead, the lessons are designed to reinforce mastery of concepts already learned in the first three quarters of the school year.
"Teachers are understanding that next year as students come in, they're not going to have necessarily all the skills we would have had, but we'll meet them where they are and we'll cover what we didn't get to cover and we'll move forward," she said.
Many schools are still working out plans on how to hold high school graduation ceremonies. The teachers and Dr. Thomas both stressed that they want all want their students to know they love them and are thinking about them even when everyone is separated.
Click here for the latest update on the number of cases, the age, gender and location of presumptive positive, indeterminate and confirmed cases from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.