In Boone County, School Must Go On, So Teachers Get Creative

Mar 19, 2020

Content scheduling and green screens are usually things vloggers worry about for work.

But this week, Erpenbeck Elementary School teacher Mrs. Brenna Aschermann is pulling out all the stops for her kindergarten class. In a YouTube video, she walks her students through opinion writing. "We always joke that kindergarten is the greatest show on earth," she says. "We are up there putting on a show for these kids but also making sure that we're addressing standards and trying to keep them engaged in every way we can."

The Boone County Public School district closed its buildings this week, but teachers are still required to teach and be responsive to students' questions. The district implemented Kentucky's nontraditional instruction (NTI) days until April 20, which makes school days mandatory from a remote location. This is the first time the district has used NTI since it's typically protocol for severe weather conditions in rural communities.

COVID-19 is making school districts throughout the U.S. juggle how to mandate remote learning while ensuring students have access to resources like technology. WVXU reached out to multiple districts to learn how they are addressing Governor Mike DeWine's mandate. Middletown City Schools declined to comment and Cincinnati Public Schools didn't respond in time for publication.

Over a thousand of Boone County public school's students are English language learners, a few of which are in Mrs. Aschermann's class. Assistant Superintendent for Learning Support Services Jenny Watson says ELL students have direct contact to a para-educator or teacher if they run into problems learning remotely. "Our English Language learner teachers are required to make contact with every one of their students every day," she says.

Teachers and students communicate through Google Hangout, Zoom, Google Meets and WhatsApp. The district says over 80% of its students are online; 20% get paper packets or the district is working to make sure they have internet hotspots.

Watson says using technology can be difficult for occupational and physical therapists who are working with students with disabilities. "The service in special ed can't look the same in NTI as it does onsite. When you cannot have face-to-face contact there is no doubt about that," she says. "Nothing will replace a teacher."

Over the last few years, the district has been buying every third through 12th grade student a Chromebook, which allowed them to switch to remote learning within a day.

Aschermann says her team got together last week to tweak their lesson plan to be taught online. "We had a little bit of time after that to sit down and look at our kindergarten timeline, district timeline and priority-based standards to make sure we are covering all of that," she says.

As for next week's content, her class will be getting a lesson on narrative writing, which Aschermann is currently prepping her green screen for.