Without ceremonial ribbon-cuttings, formal dedications or even specific times and places, the Killeen Independent School District launched its Continued Learning Center last week, reflecting an emerging era of schooling without walls.
A collection of online platforms provides the academic content. Creative, thoughtful educators deliver the lessons from their homes directly to the homes of their students.
Simultaneously across KISD, staff members labored last week to distribute hard copy take-home packets for families of elementary-level students without digital accessibility, as well as a large number wanting to supplement the online offerings.
“Printed packets are only for Elementary students that indicated they are not able to print at home, our Secondary students are engaging in our online Continued Learning Center. Families of middle and high school students, who do not have a device at home, will be contacted this week with information about our device distribution process,” Taina Maya, KISD’s chief communications and marketing officer, said in an email to the Herald on Monday.
“We are distributing laptops and we have provided a list of service providers offering free internet for 60 days or reduced plans for students during the covid-19 closure. This list of resources is also on our Continued Learning Center website,” according to Maya.
The online and take-home efforts are part of the school district’s response to the continued closure of school due to the global spread of coronavirus.
At Fowler Elementary School in Killeen, a steady flow of parents stepped one at a time into the front vestibule, used provided hand sanitizer, then followed arrows taped to the floor to pick up stapled-together work arranged in bins from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade.
Fowler Assistant Principal Alena Thomas said parents will return the completed work on Monday and pick up a fresh week’s worth of new material.
Now in the middle of the second unexpected week out of school related to the coronavirus, parents seemed ready for added school work and said their children were ready for it, too.
At Fowler Elementary, Lakeva Crim, a post office employee, picked up a packet for her fourth-grade daughter. She said she was surprised to wake up and find her three children ready to start school.
“They are motivated,” she said. “My daughter got up and said ‘school starts today.’”
Her fourth-, ninth- and 11th-grader have been sharing a laptop, but the family plans to get a second one and Crim said she was happy to have the packet of material to supplement their continued learning.
The grateful parent said her children’s teachers have been calling and emailing since school closed. “They made it easy,” she said. “We have had no issues.”
At Clear Creek Elementary School on Fort Hood, Evelyn Romero also took advantage of the supplemental work, picking up a packet for her son in kindergarten.
“We’ve been using a board and flashcards,” she said. “He thinks it’s fun.” The 6-year-old, Josue, has used S-T Math and ABC Mouse online, as well as crafts his soldier mom has come up with for him.
“The teacher, Mrs. (Nikki) Moyers sends us pictures of websites and updates us,” she said. “She is keeping us up to date.”
“She takes care of me and my whole class,” Josue said, praising his teacher’s efforts.
Continued Learning Online
Even before the official launch of additional online learning platforms through the school district website, creative KISD teachers were keeping in touch with students, meeting through conference applications and sharing photos and videos.
Career Center photography instructor John Smallwood has been keeping up with his high school students remotely and documenting his efforts.
His students’ assignment is particularly relevant to the times — to document visually their time in quarantine.
Mindy Smallwood, his wife and a pre-kindergarten teacher at Clifton Park Elementary School, is reading to her students and making video available to families online.
Skipcha Elementary School kindergarten teacher Lisa Stewart is in contact with her colleagues through Zoom conferencing. They provided for students a virtual dance party loaded on YouTube. She and her team of teachers walked parents through the process of accessing the curriculum.
While teachers naturally appreciate the value of continued learning, they also recognize the power of continued connection through voice and sight.
“I held a Zoom conference with my kindergartens yesterday,” Stewart said. “They told me all about teeth they had lost since they saw me last, they showed me their pets, and showed me forts they had built at home. We played Simon Says and danced to our favorite classroom songs.”
Brookhaven Elementary fourth-grade teacher Regina Beard has also stayed in touch using Class Dojo and Seesaw. She said PE and music teachers at her school have posted songs and movement activities.
“This morning, I met with both my parents and students and together we navigated the new Continued Learning website,” Beard said.
“We talked about the Imagine Learning platform and weekly instruction. It was great seeing some of my students and being able to answer the questions my parents had regarding their child’s learning.”
As much as students and parents might be missing school, teachers are longing to see their students.
“They are missing their kids,” said Fowler Principal Joyce Lauer, standing outside the school greeting parents coming to pick up packets.
Principals are meeting with teachers regularly through video conference and many teachers are setting up video meetings with parents and students. “The upper-grade level teams are meeting together and they are making a lot of phone calls,” she said.
“I am proud of my campus, our district and all my fellow teachers,” Beard said. “We are doing everything we can to make sure our students’ education is continued during this time of uncertainty.”
Access the Continued Learning Center at the following: