With the emergence of one positive case of COVID-19 in a 20-student kindergarten class, the teachers and administrators at the Perry Elementary School worked overtime Tuesday in order to prepare for a quick change to online instruction during the 14-day quarantine.
“We were able to connect personally with all the kids and families in this section,” said Perry Elementary School Principal Ned Menke. “We are set up to have them pick up computers tomorrow (Wednesday) so that they can get their virtual learning going even tomorrow afternoon already and keep their learning going even amongst this whole thing.”
The elementary school began face-to-face instruction Aug. 19 with about 750 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade classes. Menke said teachers were already teaching some virtual classes, and that will help with seamlessly moving the 20-student section online.
“We’re all going to have to be very nimble during this school year to change at the drop of a hat,” he said. “We’re set up to go online as rapidly as we can, which will be tomorrow morning. We do have a lot of things ready to go that the teachers already have from working with their online kids, but it’s different when you’re setting up for three or four kids in your class and then — boom — in one day you’ve suddenly got a class of 20 online. So getting that set up is going to be challenging, to say the least, but that is going to be our main task tomorrow for this class.”
Menke also said that while the Perry Community School District has been planning for the possibility of a quarantined class, an outbreak among kindergartners presents a special challenge because the youngsters are preliterate.
“We’ve been planning for a potential virtual,” he said, “but you’d like it to not be with your youngest kids the first round. It would have been way better, honestly, the perfect scenario — because we know we’re going to have cases. You’d be an idiot to not expect that — would have been with the older kids because they’re more familiar with the technology. So that’s the trick we’re going to have to work on the next couple of weeks with this section.”
With hopeful resignation, Menke said the Perry Elementary School would rise to the challenge and would also be transparent and continue to keep the community informed about the health of the schoolchildren.
“None of these kids has a whole lot of experience with the Chromebook yet,” he said, “so they’re going to need some help with their parent at home, but what do you do? Roll with it, and deal with it. Make the best out of the situation. We have a case. That’s the truth. Might as well get it out there and let people know.”
Menke said he was grateful for the goodwill and confidence that the parents of all the kids in the quarantined section have shown.
“We have a great crew of families that understood what was going on,” he said. “I really would commend the families of this section of students. On the calls I made, the people were very understanding and sympathetic with the district and appreciated the phone call and are looking forward to getting back onsite on Sept. 9.”