Sedgwick school gets creative to connect with students

by Bill Bush

SEDGWICK—Give grace — We are a team — Less is more — Connection over content.

These are the four building-wide guidelines that R.L. Wright Elementary School established to steer their continuous learning expectations for the final nine weeks of the school year.

With the beginning of the new online instructional format this week, Principal Julie Scott has emphasized each of the guidelines with teachers and staff, pointing out that the stress they are dealing with, in the big scheme of the country’s current struggles, is minimal.

“I think our administration, starting with Mr. Roth, has done a really good job of keeping this very low key,” Scott said. “And, at least at the elementary level, I’m very much encouraging parents just to do what you can, and, you know, we’ll get through it.”

Scott said they’ve already had to use the first guideline—give grace—on themselves because some of their Facebook live sessions haven’t always gone as planned. Then when they started communicating with parents, the volume of e-mails quickly overwhelmed parents and teachers alike.

The e-mails multiplied by the number of students in the family times the number of classes students had (middle and high school) times the various activities in which students had been involved.

“We scaled back and told families, ‘Just do what you can,’” Scott said. “A lot of my teachers started this week with just giving them one task…it’s been very, very low key.”

The staff has worked together to touch base with every student, connecting with each family in some way, shape, or form.

Teachers are using Zoom to meet online with students daily. The state maximum time limits are 45 minutes for K-1, 60 minutes for 2-4 grades, and 90 minutes for 5-6 grades. Scott said they are not meeting for the maximum at this point and the assignments are minimal right now.

Scott said that some states are trying to do full days of learning, but she thinks that’s too much.

“This is not trying to get everything in that you would normally get in in a nine weeks; not even close,” Scott said. “What I keep telling my teachers is we have families that are being laid off, we have families that have parents trying to do two full time jobs at home while taking care of the kids, we have kids sharing devices, we are very shortly, if we don’t, we’re going to have family with illnesses in their house. I want less is more.”

What Scott means by less is more is for teachers to do things that are different and fun, to keep the connection with the students and to sprinkle in some academics where appropriate. She said if they don’t get something done, cross it off the list and move on.

“We’re not going to set any kid back, or we’re not gonna ruin any kid’s education because of this situation,” Scott said. It’s gonna be perfectly fine. We’re going to be able to catch them up.”

One of the tools being used to stay connected with the students is Facebook live. Each day school counselor Tamara LeMonnier and at-risk interventionist Kandee Gardner lead morning community time just like they’ve done all year.

“During the school year, morning community allowed us to connect with students and talk to them,” Gardner explained. “We want them to know that we are still here.”

“Morning Community is something that has united the student body of R. L. Wright Elementary School all year, and we felt it was important for the students to continue with as much normalcy as possible,” LeMonnier said. “The students love being able to share jokes with classmates and see each other’s faces from emailed videos of them doing the flag salute that they can do together as we start the virtual school day.”

Scott said they are also doing an afternoon check-in, where each day a different staff member will do something fun with the students. For instance, on Wednesday, Title I para Leah Gaede demonstrated how to draw a cardinal.

“It’s just something fun for the students to connect to different people, and then the kids that can’t see it live can see it posted later,” Scott said.

She said at some point they want to do one more activity (virtually) with their FAB (Family Activity Building) families, though it’s yet to be determined what that will be.

Scott also thought they would do a video for kindergarten roundup, but said that screenings for kindergarten and pre-k have been postponed for now.

Scott said that so far, the kids are loving the interaction.

“Even though they miss their school and they miss their friends, it’s also fun for them to try things a little different,” she said.