Basin schools transition to online classrooms during closure

By JESSICA ROBINSON

After a decision from Big Horn County School District No. 4 to provide online learning for core classes (English, reading, math, and science), staff and students found themselves transitioning from a physical classroom to an online classroom.

Supt. Dave Kerby said teachers needed to revamp their education platform. He commented that it was an amazing transformation.

At Riverside Middle/High School, students are using the Canvas program. RMHS Principal Matt Jensen explained that staff utilizes the program to post assignments for students and for parents to access. Lately, districts have been making it a priority to use the program even more. Instead of putting their toe in the water, Jensen said they are diving right in. 

Special Education teacher Sam Buck talks with ninth grade RMHS student Daytona Nielsen during the school material pickup last Thursday. School Dist. 4 board members approved for core classes to be taught online during the closure due to COVID-19.
Jessica Robinson photo

Laura Irwin Elementary students are using Facebook, learning packets and some online programs. 

Each student was given a device in the form of a Chromebook or iPad. 

Kerby reported at RMHS, every single student reported to having Internet access. He did not have information on LIE students. The district had sent a survey on March 16 and some staff provided follow-up interviews to parents who did not respond. Kerby mentioned that TCT offered free services to students who did not have Internet access.

After the emergency board meeting, RMHS and LIE staff met at their respective building on Wednesday, March 18 to discuss the plan they were to put into place. At RMHS there was follow-up training for the staff on the Canvas program. Kerby said it was so all the staff would get a little more familiar with the program. 

On Thursday, March 19, students and parents drove up to the school where staff members from both schools would give them devices and materials. 

Kerby reported the district also had recently purchased the ZOOM meeting program. This program will allow staff to meet with students via video chat. They will also be able to conduct IEPs with the program.

Kerby said there will be a learning curve during this time. He thinks it will improve.

Another thing provided for the students is a direct line to the teacher if they would have any questions. Even if the teacher is not in the building, the call will be forwarded to their cell phones. 

Kerby said most staff would be working from home. However, the building is not locked down to the teachers since they have resources in their classrooms. Students will not be permitted at the school.

Another change with the closure included feeding students. At the board meeting, it was reported they transitioned into the summer feeding program. This means all students can get a meal.

Kerby reported they would mostly deliver all the meals. A bus driver and staff member will deliver the food by knocking and leaving the meal at the door in order to avoid exposure. Anyone interested in a meal can call Malia McClure at 307-568-1611. 

Kerby asks for parents to please be patient during this time. He also wants students to stay involved and for parents to encourage students to continue their education.

Kerby said this is a social and educational experiment to see how they adapt and provide quality educational services. He added they would make an effort to continue quality educational services.

As of Monday, Jensen said he was really surprised with the report he has gotten from teachers. Only a few students were reported to be behind. Otherwise, a lot of the students were working ahead. Jensen said the teachers are reporting students are doing a pretty good job.

Jensen emphasized it is a matter of communicating and parents can get a hold of them if they have questions and concerns. He said they take it on a case-by-case basis. 

“We are all in this together,” said Jensen. “We have to do what we can.”