Laingsburg schools offer in-person and virtual learning

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Photo courtesy of Kelly Sikkema

Last March, all students from kindergarteners to college students were sent home to finish the remainder of the school year virtually. While some schools continued virtual learning for the school year, other schools implemented some in-person learning. 

Laingsburg Elementary School offers online and in-person learning. Students that opted for  in-person learning meet with their teacher in the morning. Teachers use the afternoon to record videos and prepare online content for their virtual students. 

One key element about the learning option is that students at Laingsburg Elementary receive a half day of instruction. The elementary school  doesn’t combine in-person learning and virtual learning during a single school day. Students either meet with their teacher in person or virtually. 

The district surveyed parents at the beginning of the school year on whether they wanted to  send their child to school or keep them home.  Most, parents preferred in-person learning while. 

Sheila Freeman, principal at Laingsburg Elementary,  said, “we needed to be able to meet the needs of all of our community.” She said “People that wanted face-to-face got that and people that were virtual got that, as well. In the long run, I feel like it’s a good plan and it’s been a good plan for our community,” she said.  

First grade teacher Katie Robinson said she worked with the other two first grade teachers to pick out the most important things to be taught this year. Since instructional time is cut in half, Robinson focuses on math and reading daily but incorporates science and social studies in the lessons. 

“The amount of time that I have the kids it’s a lot of direct instruction where-as if it was a full day they might have some time I teach them and  then they might have some work time … with the amount of time I have them I can’t really do any of that so it is a lot of direct instruction,” said Robinson.

The first grade teachers also collaborate on pre-recorded videos for the virtual learners. Each teacher teaches a specific lesson for the week and the virtual first grade students watch the videos. Students are assigned a homeroom teacher who grades their work, but virtual learners are being taught by three teachers. 

Robinson said she likes collaborating with her colleagues on the pre-recorded videos because the students get to know the other teachers.  

Although students are in school for only half the day, they still get recess and go to their elective classes such as  art, music, science and physical education on a four-day rotation. 

In addition to mandated masking and social distancing, arrival and dismissal times are staggered to further enforce social distancing. Before the pandemic, students gathered with their classmates in the morning after being dropped off, then walked to the classroom with their teacher.  Now, students are separated into two groups: bus drop off and parent drop. Each group walks to their classroom separately.

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