Rocky Boy Schools working through distanced learning


Last updated 4/21/2020 at 11:36am

The Rocky Boy Schools superintendent said the distanced learning required in the COVID-19 pandemic is working, but everyone is anxious for regular classes to start again.

“Things are going as well as they could, but remote learning is no substitute for face to face, classroom time between students and teachers,” Superintendent Voyd St. Pierre said. “One of the major obstacles our students experience is the lack of internet at home.”

He said the school district is covering all initial costs to hook up service at individual homes, which includes the technician time and router rental. 

The school district is also working in conjunction with Triangle Communications, he added, which has agreed to provide free internet service for one to two months for students needing this service. 

“Of course, our students find it more effective to receive the face-to-face instruction in the formal classroom setting,” St. Pierre said. “Although, we have not gathered an exact tally, we estimate that over 30 percent of our students have not yet logged in to begin any remote learning activities. As most other schools in our area and across the nation are hearing, parents are finding it difficult to homeschool their children, so we are working to provide as many resources available to our community.”

He said if a student does not sign in to participate in any assigned classroom work, activities, discussion or testing they will earn no academic credit, thus not receive grades for missing or incomplete work.  

Teachers for students in grades three through 12 are completing attendance by using an online platform that records a student’s attendance.  

He added that if the school does not have any type of academic measure to determine a student’s progress or participation in any form of academic activity or work, “it is difficult to pass them on to the next grade level.”

“But, we are in the early planning stages of offering additional support programs into the summer, such as summer school, grade level teaching-tutoring, online credit recovery and project based learning,” St. Pierre said. “This would be another opportunity for a student to earn academic credit and possibly move to the next grade level.”

Rocky Boy Elementary Principal Clintanna Colliflower said last week that the elementary school is using a mixed variety of homework packets and online programs for distant learning. 

“We have sent out a total of four  weeks of paperwork packets to students that will maintain learning through the week of April 20,” she said. “We have sent out packets on a bi-weekly schedule.  Also, assignments are posted daily on the online learning sites.”

She said the pre-kidnergarten through second grade students have been provided learning packets and the teachers are collecting the written work from students to give participation grades. 

The teachers in those grade levels are also using online programs for reading and math to track student progress, she added.

For grades third through sixth, she said, the students are using online teaching apps and Microsoft Teams.

“We are using multiple online resources to teach some of the programs and apps, include Renaissance Learning, Istation, Facebook messenger, Iknowit, Spelling City, Writing City, Nearpod, Thinkcentral, Kahoot, FastForward, Prodigy and Microsoft 365,” Colliflower said.

The teachers are required to communicate with parents on a weekly basis through email, phone conversations, text messages and Facebook messenger to check in with them to see if the students have questions or concerns they may have,  she added. 

“Some of the challenges have been getting student work packets to and from students and parents. We, a few teachers, paraprofessionals and myself have been hand-delivering work packets to students whose families have not picked up their packets from the school,” she said. “Some things that are working is that teachers are communicating with parents any way they can. Teachers are giving out their personal phone numbers, email and messenger accounts just to have a chance to speak with or communicate with their students and their families. Everyone is pulling together to help anyway they can, from volunteering to help make and deliver meals to students, to delivering homework packets and devices.”

Rocky Boy Junior High and High School Principal Melissa Han said the teachers in those schools built their curriculum and program for their students using Microsoft Teams.

The Infinite Campus website is used as a platform for students to use to see what assignments they are missing as well as self-report attendance, she said.

“We use that to see which students are online that day and which aren’t so that we can personally reach out to those students,” she said. “... I know some teachers have had class meetings just because the kids haven’t gotten to talk to each other or see each other. They’ve come up with some really cool different ways of teaching the same concepts from the classroom, they use stream video which is part of Microsoft.”

She added that the school has gained online access to the textbooks the students use in the classroom.

“Our teachers are really working hard to reach out to all of their students in one fashion or another and to encourage them, keep them working, keep them going even though they aren’t in the classroom seeing each other face to face,” Han said. “We also have tutors that we have had after school, we just moved them onto an online platform and anytime students are struggling they can reach out to a tutor, if a teacher sees a student struggling they let the tutors know and the tutors reach out to the students and help them one-on-one, so we are really trying to make it personable, individualized as possible to help our students succeed.”

She said assignments are different for each class and customized for the students, as some are project based or a performance task, and so on.

“We have class advisors that have been reaching out to students in each class and being encouraging and finding out what help they need, the teachers have been going above and beyond to help students,” Han said.


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