SYLACAUGA -- When Gov. Kay Ivey and state Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey announced Thursday that schools will resume classes April 6 using distance education platforms, it set the path for the remainder of the academic year.
Questions still remained, however, on how schools around the state would accomplish this task. Sylacauga City Schools Superintendent Dr. Jon Segars shed some light on the process in regards to his system.
“What’s going to happen in our district is we’re going to do a combination of online instruction and hard-copy instruction, which is packets being sent home or books being sent home,” he said. “Although our district has a 1:1 on student-to-computer (ratio), you just can’t put a computer in the hands of a second-grader and say, ‘Go home and do this.’ Those computers, for the most part, will remain at school, and we’ll do hard-copy for the younger ones.”
Segars said the state has put out a list of critical standards for each type of course and each grade level.
“What we won’t do is all the extra stuff,” he said. “We will do those things that allow them to advance to the next grade level. Of course, for those who would be graduating this year, we’re going to get all the graduation requirements done.”
He added the state requires each student be finished with the academic year by June 5.
“I anticipate us being done with that well before June 5, but I just don’t know what that timeline looks like yet,” Segars said.
Segars said high school students may have an easier time transitioning to this type of instruction because they’ve had experience with Google Classroom, but for younger students who receive face-to-face, hands-on instruction, the school system is seeking out alternative means to provide for them.
“Of course, we can’t do in-person instruction anymore, so some of that is going to be done via video,” he said. “Alabama Public Television is working with us right now to put together some things that can be aired on TV, but most of the time, it’s going to be a child with a packet in front of them and a teacher on the telephone talking to the parent about how to walk the child through this lesson and what the standards are -- how do they know they’re completed and they’ve mastered that standard.
“So (it’s) a lot of work from teachers. Teachers don’t go away in all this; they just operate by telephone and computer now.”
When it comes to students with technological difficulties, poor internet service or other challenges, Segars said his teachers are equipped to guide and assist those students through those obstacles.
“I can tell you we have students with challenges that can’t get on the internet or maybe there are not enough devices in the house for a child to use a computer while mom’s trying to work from home,” he said. “We realize that, but what we’ve had our teachers do is touch base with every single student under their classroom and figure out what their individual situation is. How do they work best? Is it by phone? Is it at night when mom’s not using the computer?
“As much as we would like this to be a big district plan, it’s really an individual plan, and it’s teacher-to-student being the most important thing. The answer is not the same for every kid.”
Segars said when the guidance was first received last Friday, the process to devise a plan was a fluid one, but before school reconvenes April 6, everything should be solidified.
“We worked on (our plan) over the weekend,” he said. “Our principals (had) until 5 p.m. (today, Monday, March 30) to deliver me their plan, then I will share that plan with our school board -- our master plan -- to get their verbal approval and any comments they have. Then, we’ll forward that to Dr. Mackey at the state department and make sure it’s good with them. That’s due by the end of the week. By Friday, we’ll have a plan in place, have parents informed and be ready to teach school on Monday.”