The biggest headache
I think it is safe to say that the second semester of the 2019-20 school year is one that will be burned forever into the memories of the school administrators and staff in Arkansas schools. On top of all the other responsibilities they normally have to deal with, they had dumped on them the confusion brought on by The Current Emergency (COVID-19).
Mrs. Melissa Moore, Superintendent of the Charleston school district, was kind enough to spare a few minutes with me out of her busy day to talk about the situation. She was remarkably patient for someone who is having to deal with the number and nature of problems that must be coming across her desk these days.
“Our basic difficulty has been dealing with a situation that can change daily. This fluid situation is requiring plans for the next school year to be multifaceted. We will be prepared for traditional school, for virtual school, and for a combination of the two.”
One responsibility that Charleston and other school districts had to deal with was what to do about lunches. The school lunch program fills a critical role in the general nutrition and health of a sizable percentage of homes these days. She said that her lunchroom staff carried on as usual. Improvised routes were constructed and volunteers delivered 425 lunches each day within the district.
Because on-site classes were stopped, hundreds of parents in Arkansas (and presumably in many other states) were immediately thrust into the role of home-schooling to some degree or other, whether they wanted to or not. Since the schools do not know for sure precisely what the situation will be next year, they are having to prepare to do lesson planning on a double front.
Hopefully most of the students will be back in the classroom by late summer. However, it is reasonable to assume that a certain percentage of parents may not yet feel comfortable sending their children back to school from a medical standpoint, and the district will have to be prepared to teach remotely and also in the more traditional manner. So, naturally, that creates a significantly greater workload for the teachers.
I asked Mrs. Moore if there were any positives from the experience. She replied that her staff across the district has risen to the occasion beyond the call of duty, handling a confused and confusing situation as well as could be expected under the stressful circumstances.
Looking to the future, there is the challenge of making sure students do not get behind in their schoolwork, regardless of the format in which the teaching must be done. Lesson planning will be much more involved.
Mrs. Moore, Mr. Trent Goff of Booneville, and their colleagues across the state are to be commended for the job they are doing. No one anticipated the problem. No one knew in advance how to handle it, or even fully the nature of it. Government at every level has been feeling its way as the nation tries to deal with one of the more problematic periods in our history.
Teaching has always been an important job. However, it has not always been quite as complicated as it has been this semester. Mrs. Melissa Moore is an optimist, however, and she feels strongly that there will be no long term damage to the educational system because of the virus. Here is hoping that she is exactly right.