Because of COVID-19, students at Burrell School District haven’t been to school since March 13. Amidst the chaos, the district worked hard to create a remote learning program that was implemented on March 30.
Students and teachers now log into Google Classroom for lessons, which are either pre-recorded or live sessions. The school day runs from 8:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., and teachers are available for questions through chat or email. While students still have assignments, they don’t need to be done in real-time like a typical school day.
Crafting the program was quite the challenge, but the district relied on guidance provided by the PA Department of Education and the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit.
“Our primary concern is our students’ mental and physical health while offering them equitable access to learn in a remote environment,” said Dr. Autumn R. Turk, Assistant Principal at Charles A. Huston Middle School. “We are doing our best to provide our students with the best possible learning environment in a very uncertain time for our nation.”
So far, teachers and students have found the process challenging.
“Remote learning has been pretty interesting so far because it’s a whole new way of learning for us, both the teachers and the students,” said senior Taylor Ceraso.
One problem Ceraso noted is a lack of personalized instruction.
“I feel like because we have to teach ourselves some of the material, we may not understand what we’re trying to learn,” said Ceraso. “Thankfully, the teachers are setting up Google Meetings for students to stop by and ask questions like we would at school.”
“It’s been very difficult,” said Mary Rae O’Toole, a mathematics teacher at Burrell High School. Before coronavirus, she didn’t use much technology in her classroom, so she’s had to find all new ways to convey information.
“Of course, I love the math behind it all, but I miss the interactions with my students the most,” said O’Toole. “They are the reasons I love my job! Those relationships I’ve built with them face to face, not behind a computer.”
While Dr. Turk isn’t sure how long remote learning will last, she says the end of the school year is still planned for June 11. The district will make up lost time by having “in-session” days during the previously scheduled spring recess.
“This is a growth opportunity for all of us,” said Dr. Turk. “Therefore, it is vital to remember to be flexible, forgiving, kind, and courageous as we tackle this new experience together.”