Oklahoma schools reshape the classroom amid COVID-19 pandemic

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Kathryn Burkhart

Students in Edmond Public Schools are learning to use the online dashboard.

Kathryn Burkhart, Editor-in-Chief/Photographer

On Mar. 25 the Oklahoma State Board of Education decided that students will not return to the classroom for the remainder of the school year as a result of the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite no new grades being allowed, Edmond Public Schools (EPS) announced plans to continue instruction through an online classroom dashboard to help students keep the skills they have learned. Prior to Apr. 6, teachers have found ways to conduct lessons through virtual meeting apps like Zoom and Google Meet.

“As a 15-year veteran educator, the COVID-19 virus has thrown me into a new arena called distant learning and kicked me out of my comfort zone not only personally but professionally,” said AP Government teacher Torie York. “It has me reevaluating, second-guessing and reforming everything I’ve done as an educator over the years.”

Students from Kindergarten to seniors in high school have made a gradual transition to the digital classroom through the EPS dashboard as well as AP Collegeboard live streams and study materials available online. As this is an entirely new territory for most teachers and students, the switch is a challenge for some as far as academics go. 

“It has been very difficult for me,” an anonymous senior said. “I am usually fine with school work, but for some reason, it has been hard to focus when you’re at home 24/7.”

Another obstacle posed by school closures is how students who cannot afford food or access to the internet will handle learning from home. Luckily, EPS is providing free breakfast and lunch at several schools in the district for those who need it. Several internet providers are offering free and discounted services for families who qualify for free and reduced lunches. 

“ EPS served 7,162 free meals this week,” said a post from the EPS Facebook page on Mar. 27. “Due to federal guidelines, our district is only allowed to set up feeding locations in the Sunset Elementary and Ida Freeman Elementary attendance areas, but we are still serving meals to any student 18 and younger.”

One major concern that parents, teachers and students alike face is the lack of communication with friends and instructors.

 “It’s not easy by any means but it’s forcing me to learn and adapt when faced with adversity,” York said. “In the long run, I hope I grow to be an even better educator than I was before. I know I will never take my students and the relationships I have with them for granted. I miss them the most.”

Some students have found that virtual meeting apps like FaceTime, Zoom and Google Meet have provided an outlet for studying or catching up with each other. Teachers also use these apps to visit with students for both academics and just to talk. Other times communication is conducted through email or text.

The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic called for unprecedented measures for schools statewide. Students, teachers and parents are adjusting to an online learning environment at various paces, and it is likely that students will not return to the classroom until later this year. For now, adaptation to this new style of learning will be commonplace until the pandemic comes to an end.