Materials for remote learning are stacked outside Auke Bay Elementary School. (Courtesy photo | Juneau School District)

Materials for remote learning are stacked outside Auke Bay Elementary School. (Courtesy photo | Juneau School District)

Juneau schools pivot to deal with new teaching environment

Teaching remotely is a whole different animal from teaching in person.

With schools closed until at least May, the Juneau School District is taking steps to ensure the coronavirus doesn’t permanently derail education in the city as the district’s spring break comes to an end Monday.

“Last week, teachers spent time learning how to use Google Hangouts and Zoom to communicate with each other and with students,” said JSD director of teaching and learning support Ted Wilson Thursday in an email. “Teachers also were asked to create ‘packets’ or other offline learning/practice materials that can be distributed through the food program in the coming weeks.”

Making do with less: school budget down $2.4M from last year

Giving all students an opportunity to learn, supported through school-issued computers, internet access, or school-provided meals, is part of the district’s mission to make sure that all of Juneau’s children have the chance to succeed, said JSD chief of staff Kristin Bartlett in an email.

“Teachers connected with families by phone, email and online to find out how to support students with technology and food needs,” Bartlett said. “Some classes started working together last week via Zoom, Google Classroom, ClassDojo and YouTube. For those who do not have a device or internet access, the district is working on solutions to get students connected.”

The ubiquity of internet-supported learning is making it easier for classes to continue to interact as a whole, Wilson said, and not just for teachers in traditional curriculum tracks.

“PE and music teachers, counselors, librarians, special education teachers, and other non-classroom teachers have been working on how to provide their curriculum as well,” Wilson said. “Students were asked to take instruments home, for example, so that they can practice lessons shared by the music teacher. There is potential for live web meetings where some attempt at shared music or movement activities could take place.”

Juneau School District distributes student meals as schools shuttered

Juneau isn’t acting alone as it retools its procedures to deal with circumstances, Wilson said, but working with other districts around the state to synthesize best practices and achieve the best learning outcomes for the students.

“On a statewide level, both the superintendents and the teaching and learning directors groups have been meeting to brainstorm and share approaches to distance education,” Wilson said. “As one district overcomes a hurdle, they share their learning with others.”

Outgoing seniors are one area that the district and the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development are still working out, Wilson said.

“We are still working on seniors — and that is a place where the districts and the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development will work together so that there are similar practices between schools,” Wilson said. “Seniors will receive diplomas. They will have grades recorded at least through third quarter this year. What fourth quarter looks like is still under discussion.”

Bartlett and Wilson encouraged parents and students to verify that their contact information and addresses are correct in the school’s registry for accuracy of delivery of teaching materials and communications.

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757.621.1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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