EAST TEXAS (KLTV) - A year upended by coronavirus closures meant school staff worked overtime to make sure every East Texas student was getting the help they needed. However, it was no easy task.
Lindale ISD teacher Wendi Hicks is still trying to keep her first-graders engaged during virtual learning, even dressing up in different outfits with her co-teacher for reading sessions. But, she says keeping them engaged is just half of the battle in the new learning environment. Getting in touch with the students was a challenge, as well.
“Some [phone] numbers have changed. We were trying to email," she said. “I looked up people on Facebook and messenger and just tried to find out from each parent, ‘What’s the best way to contact you?’”
School districts are now faced with the challenge of getting in touch with each of their students. Superintendent at Pine Tree ISD, Steve Clugston, said that they have contacted every person in the district.
“In some form or fashion, we’ve tracked everyone down,” he said.
Once the district reaches each student, there is the challenge of making sure work is completed. It is one thing to hold your students accountable in a classroom, but what if you are no longer in the same room?
“I’ve got one person dedicated full-time to knocking on doors and going out and tracking kids down if we have a fall out of work," said Clugston.
Clugston says 95 percent of Pine Tree ISD students are participating in virtual learning, to some extent.
In Lindale, Hicks says her principal helped her contact every student in her class, and from there, they worked to make sure each student had everything he or she needed.
“We’ve said, ‘Send pictures. Send texts of the worksheets,’" said Hicks. "'What do you need for us to help you to make sure you’re successful?'”
Lindale ISD says 99 percent of their students participated in virtual learning.
School districts, like Lufkin ISD, provided students both virtual learning and paper packets. Lufkin ISD says just 35 of their 7,800 students were non-contactable.
Tasked with lots of changes and little time to adapt, Clugston says that one thing remains constant.
“Our big thing—if there was something a kid needed, we wanted to make sure we could meet it.”
With about a week of school left, some districts have not yet calculated their virtual learning participation rates. The next step now for many—finalizing plans for summer school.