Families adapting to e-learning

  • Sunshot by Michael Hall — Andi Swann, a paraprofessional at North Hart Elementary, looks for supplies to give to a family who drove through the parking lot at the school on Friday to pick up learning materials for home learning.
    Sunshot by Michael Hall — Andi Swann, a paraprofessional at North Hart Elementary, looks for supplies to give to a family who drove through the parking lot at the school on Friday to pick up learning materials for home learning.
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Normally she would be at school already, but sixth-grader Mary Charlotte Gordon, and her mother Paige Gordon, are sleeping in today, and probably for many days to come. They have switched their daily routine of being at school by the time the bell rings, to logging into digital assignments Hart County schools are providing them with while all of the county schools are closed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re just trying to be relaxed,” Paige Gordon said over the phone Tuesday. “We’re not getting up at the same time. I’m kind of letting them sleep in, then we get to it after that. We’re just trying to make the best of it.”

The two are just a couple of parents and students adjusting to the school closures and subsequent online learning tools the school system has turned to in this unprecedented scenario.

Students across the state are swapping their daily routines of going bell-to-bell at school for a more contemporary classroom — the internet. Assignments are given to Hart County students through  apps like Google Classroom, an application with the goal of streamlining the process of sharing files between teachers and students. The school system has even ensured internet access by designating several locations where busses will be parked so students can use Wi-Fi throughout the day, all while maintaining social distancing.

On Friday, March 20, Elizabeth Hollingsworth dutifully signed papers on the console of her small SUV while in the car-rider line at North Hart Elementary to accept a laptop and other items from her granddaughters’ teachers.

It was not how she would want her three grandchildren — seventh-grader Matthew Hollingsworth, 10-year-old Emma Holmes and 9-year-old Dacia Cooper — to complete their classwork, but given the circumstances, it will work just fine, she said. 

“I would love them to be back in school, but the schools have been great to get us all of this,” Hollingsworth said. 

She said in class is best, but completing assignments at home is better than nothing at all.

“I appreciate that they have assignments so they don’t get behind,” she said from behind the steering wheel after having lunch and school supplies.

While some districts may be struggling to transition to digital learning, Gordon said her daughter was ready when the time came because she had already been using the software at school.

“Her teachers have definitely stepped up and put some good content out there,” Paige Gordon said.

Gordon said she thinks the school system as a whole is handling the situation well. She received a call from her daughter’s homeroom teacher the first day that school was canceled.

“They hit the ground running with trying to make sure everyone had chromebooks and would be able to eat. They were reaching out immediately,” Gordon said.

State School Superintendent Richard Woods recently announced the Georgia Department of Education will immediately apply for a waiver from assessment requirements in 2020, assuring the public they can expect that no state testing, including Georgia Milestones, GAA 2.0 and GKIDS, will be administered in Georgia this year.

“It has become more andmore clear that there is not a realistic path to administer state tests this year, and Georgia and other states have urged the federal government to make waivers available,” Woods said in a statement. “I thank them for doing so and Georgians can be assured we will seek the maximum flexibility available. Students, parents, and educators should be spending this time learning, growing, and weathering this storm together – not preparing for a test.”

The news that schools won’t be administering state tests this year is a great relief to many students and parents, including the Gordons.

“She typically does well on them, so it’s not anything that’s ever been a huge stresser to her, but she doesn’t enjoy them, so I think the fact she doesn’t have to do them is pleasant to her,” Gordon said.

While Mary Elizabeth Gordon misses her friends and the social aspects of school, her mother realizes the importance of social distancing during this outbreak.

“I personally would like for as many people to stay home as long as they can to really flatten the curve and slow it down,” Paige Gordon said. “It’s a heavy thought to think how long we’re going to be home, but it’s necessary. We’re just making the best of it.”