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Chinook providing distanced learning during pandemic


April 23, 2020

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

A sign reading "Holy Cow I Miss You" hangs Wednesday in one of the classroom windows at Meadowlark Elementary School in Chinook. Chinook's school principals say the faculty, staff and students have done a tremendous job transitioning to distanced learning in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chinook's public school principals said that, after getting over a few bumps, moving to distanced learning as part of the effort to reduce the spread of novel coronavirus 2019 seems to be working fairly well.

Meadowlark Elementary School students are working on language, reading and math as their core subjects in the school's remote learning program, Principal Shane Bartschi said.

"We are emphasizing language, reading and math as our core subjects," he said. "Our teachers are grading these on our current grade scale in each respective grade. Other subjects are provided and encouraged, but are graded on participation."

In kindergarten through second grade, packets are provided along with some online supplements through programs, he said, such as Seesaw, Education City, virtual field trips and so on, adding grades three through six are using Google Classroom and Zoom, he said. 

Assignments are sent out weekly, Mondays in packet form as well as lessons online are set up for a week, he added.

He said some things that have been difficult or a challenge in the school's remote learning program are gauging how much work is enough or too much, and getting students to return all assignments and consistency.

"Overall, we are pleased with how it is going," Bartschi said. "We are very proud of our students and teachers in that we have reached every student and received something from all students. Teachers have done a great job of transitioning quickly to a completely different way of teaching as well as students transitioning to a different way of learning."

Families that live out of town can call the school at 357-2033 to request that the packets be sent out on the busses that deliver meals.

"I would like to thank everyone for doing their part. I am grateful for families and a community that have been supportive and understanding as we try to make this situation the best it can be, especially as things change so quickly," Bartschi said. "I am proud of our students for working hard to get their work done and continue to learn outside of our buildings. I am also thankful to their families for the support they are giving them."

People can check the school's Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/chinookmeadowlark for updates and reminders as well the school's website at http://chinookschools.org/meadowlark .

Chinook's junior and senior high school classes are providing online instruction in all classes, Principal Matt Molyneaux said.

"At the junior-senior classes, we are primarily online, but some teachers and classes are providing paper materials and reading books project materials and these are put out in teacher labeled boxes or shelves in the main foyer of our high school," he said. "Students stop by and buzz into the office and pick up and or drop off projects and materials as assigned by the classes," said Molyneaux.

The majority of assignments are sent out at the beginning of the week as some other classes send out assignments two to three times a week, he said.

He said the school is aiming for an online workload level of two to four hours of time needed to complete daily assignments, adding that assignments and amount of time expected to spend online are a little higher at the high school level than at the junior high level. 

Lunches are delivered daily through the bus routes for rural students and Mondays, he said, the routes drop off and pick up paper instructional materials from the rural students when lunches are delivered.

Online instruction started March 30, he said, adding that the school has checked out Chromebooks and laptops to every student who needed a computer.  

"Initial challenges were getting the students used to answering questions and navigating the various online learning platforms," Molyneaux said. "Challenges still are determining student workload in relation to all classes so as to not overload the amount of time students need to spend online."

Havre Daily News/Jack Lambert

Chinook High School is seen on a sunny Wednesday in Chinook. Chinook's school principals say the faculty, staff and students have done a tremendous job transitioning to distanced learning in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Things that he has seen working, he said, are coordinating Zoom classroom sessions among teachers have helped to make the online instruction function a little smoother and the constant communication between teachers and their classrooms in an effort to adjust instructional workload has been a key as well. 

"Communication between teachers in regard to what is being done online has helped tremendously," Molyneaux said.

The primary level of instruction has been done through programs such as Google Classroom and Zoom, he said, adding that some different platforms are being used depending on the subject area.

He said, for example, band class uploads recording of assigned practice sessions specific to a music app practical to that curricular area. 

"The online instruction is a continual learning process for the teacher as well as the students," Molyneaux said. "Learning how to and then providing online instruction has been a huge undertaking for the teachers and they have responded in an amazing way to the challenge. I believe it is tougher to provide effective online instruction and the teachers are working hard and doing great."


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