Hays-Lodge Pole Public Schools seeing low participation as they move to remote learning
April 22, 2020
Hays-Lodge Pole Public Schools has transferred fully to remote learning, and in the process has helped set up all their students with internet access, but they are still grappling with a participation rate below 50 percent.
Hays-Lodge Pole K-12 Principal Reyna Monteau said the elementary and high schools have both been using Google Classroom for remote learning for the past few weeks, but the school is also looking into making use of Microsoft 360 as well.
Monteau said the school produced hardcopy lessons for students starting the week of March 16, but after a week it became evident that they would need to shift to a fully online teaching structure.
Starting the week of March 23, Home-School Coordinator Chantel King began calling every student to see whether they had internet access and collect the names and addresses of those who didn’t.
Monteau said this process was complicated by the fact that many students live in tribal housing and didn’t know their physical addresses. But after a week-and-a-half every student had internet access.
She said Dean of Students Corey Morgan contacted Triangle Communications to get their students internet access for as long as online classes, including potential summer school classes, are ongoing.
She said she appreciates Triangle Communications’ willingness to give the school a deal, and for helping them get internet set up for their students.
Monteau also said the schools had enough Chromebooks for every family, but not every student, though she said it was a bit hard to give them up, since they had become so integral for testing and other activities to the higher grades.
“It was a big accomplishment to get these Chromebooks, so that they can be doing all of these things at school, so it was really hard for us to give them away because we just finally were in a safe place where they all had a Chromebook,” she said, jokingly.
Monteau said the teachers spent two weeks finishing 77-hour Google Certification Courses to become proficient online instructors.
“They practiced on each other because it was all new, there was only one teacher that had used Google Classroom out of all of our teachers before this,” she said.
Monteau said the training teachers received vastly increased their effectiveness as online instructors.
“All of us were novices at online teaching, but we kicked it in gear and you wouldn’t know that we were novices, because as soon as it was time to teach online we were trained up and ready to go,” she said.
Monteau said that since these courses were completed teachers have been using Google Classroom to teach highly structured lessons to students stuck at home.
“We set up an instructional framework of what’s to be expected from each lesson and each teacher,” she said.
Monteau said most teachers have been working out of their otherwise empty classrooms, but those teachers with underlying health conditions were permitted to work from home, along with many of the high school teachers who were from out of town. She said faculty has been using Zoom for meetings for the last few weeks.
She said teachers are keeping up with their students individually to help them through the lessons if they need it.
“The main expectation is just to be in contact with students by phone, or however is possible to keep them learning, keep them going and see if they are having any trouble with the online classes,” Monteau said.
However, she said, the remote learning program is facing a major problem, less than half of the students are logging in.
“The hang up is that not all of the student are logging in even though they have the internet,” Monteau said.
Monteau said when remote learning first began, the participation rate was 15 percent, but in the days that followed that number shot up to 46 percent after teachers began calling students individually. She also said the initial number was so low partially because there were still a number of students who had not yet picked up their Chromebooks.
Monteau said she hopes that the number will increase as more and more students are contacted.
She said because classes are logged into individually, some classes have seen more participation than others. PE and English Language Arts have apparently been the most popular.
Monteau said this participation issue has caused a dilemma for school faculty, and plans are being made for how to grade students and help them in the coming year based on their participation level, but no final decisions have been made.
However, she said, she hopes that efforts by teachers to get in touch with and engage their students individually will raise the participation level to the point where such plans will be unnecessary.
Monteau said students who participate fully in remote learning typically receive about 10-20 minutes of assignments per subject at the K-6 level, and 20-30 minutes worth of assignments at 7-12.
“That’s a lot of time for kids to be sitting at the table … that’s 3 hours of work every day,” she said.
Monteau said this kind of set up can be difficult for parents due to the kinds of jobs people in the area have.
“Most of the jobs that we have around here are essential jobs, there not very many people that get to stay home,” she said.
Monteau said the schools are using the quarantine time to beautify the school while students are away, by revamping neglected areas of the schools.
“We’re cleaning out closets that never were cleaned out before,” she said.
Monteau said she hopes that these efforts will lead to a more comfortable place for students, and she’s impressed by how hard the schools’ employees and faculty are working amid the pandemic.
“Our teachers are kicking butt and our paraprofessionals are too,’ she said, “They are doing a ton of work to help make the school look better and feel better for when the students get back.”