While some of the effects of the health emergency surrounding COVID-19 for school students is obvious, others are not, and may not become so until long after bells ring to signal a change in classes.
“Teachers are reaching out to the kids and coaches are reaching out to the athletes, just trying to stay connected as much as possible,” junior high principal Josh Walker told the Booneville School Board at its regularly scheduled meeting last week. “We’re doing the best we can.”
Board member Tyson Washburn said his youngest child has struggled with having to attend school but last week told his father he was ready to return.
“I was floored. He was like ‘I miss my friends, I miss my teachers,’” said Washburn. “He can’t be the only one that’s feeling that. He misses the structure, the teachers, the love. It’s impacting kids in ways we don’t know.”
Elementary school principal Jyme Beth Diffee said the missing is a two-way street.
“It’s impacting my teachers. I’ve got a lot of teachers struggling emotionally,” said Diffee.
“I think we’ll all come out of it more grateful for what we have,” Walker added.
“Our teachers are putting in a lot of thought, a lot of effort,” Diffee said of assigned work. “They are on the phone with parents — I tell them 8 (a.m.) to 2 (p.m.), 8 to 2 — but they’ve set up Google phone numbers through their email and they’ve got people calling them at 11 o’clock at night because that’s when their shift at Rockline is not working.”
Board member Eric Jones posed the question of Walker what effect the closing of the campuses might affect students returning to a typical routine in August.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that big of an issue,” said Walker. “If you had to pick a nine weeks to miss, this would be the one. If we were in the second nine weeks, we’d be up a creek. It’d be hard to recover.
“But a lot of the stuff we’re doing now would be preparing for testing, then testing going over old things. They’re still getting some of that. There’s no doubt it’s not as good instruction they were getting.”
Walker said some may actually do better for the down time.
Among the obvious effects included social distancing and gathering limitations as the meeting was held in the elementary school library with board members seated at a table alone, as was superintendent Trent Goff.
For now the district is delivering five days of breakfasts and lunch. Last week that was 8,000 meals by a couple of teachers aides with each bus driver.
“If you drive a bus you get stopped, by somebody,” said Diffee. “Even if they don’t have children. They’ll just tell you thank you or God bless you for what you’re doing.”
Also for now students in Booneville are competing alternative method of instruction (AMI) packets and returning them to a filing cabinet system outside main offices in most cases. Others use digital means such as Google classrooms.
Walker, who organized the AMI procedure said the district has as many as five percent of its population who have moved to residences outside the district for, apparently, safety reasons as both parents are working in essential occupations.
In those cases the district is trying to forward the work digitally and hoping students complete the assignments.
In other cases, where the student is still at a local residence, Walker and or Trent Goff are delivering material to students who have been unable to pick up the work.
The school is also manning main offices with a single administrator and secretary for the time being and custodial staff are checking the buildings weekly.
For now the idea is to have as little activity in the buildings as possible, Goff said.
“We’re on a modified schedule for two more weeks and hopefully after that we can start doing our normal summer projects,” said Goff.