Coronavirus in Tennessee: Students using technology for at-home learning during COVID-19 pandemic

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With school systems closing to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, classrooms across the state are still empty, but some are getting creative.

This week Governor Lee asked all schools to remain closed through April 24th.

MORE: Tracking Coronavirus

At Sacred Heart Catholic School, students are staying on track while logging on at home.

The Coy family starts class at their kitchen table at 9 a.m.

“I think it’s going good. I think that they like it. I think that they understand that it’s just what we have to do,” said mom, Kat Coy.

Her boys are in 1st and 4th grade at Sacred Heart which started distance-learning this week.

“I’m kind of looking at it both ways, yes learning is continuing, awesome,” Coy says. “But if they miss the mark on something, they’re going to get it later I think and I think the bonuses of what they get with us is worth it.”

More than 450 students from Pre-k to 8th grade are at Sacred Heart and since January, educators say they’ve been monitoring COVID-19 and putting together an at-home learning plan that went out to parents before the school’s spring break.

“Basically our teachers are using the technological platforms that we have to teach classes but they’re also hosting zoom conferences with their students, they’re posting videos of themselves, students are uploading and posting videos to their teacher’s websites,” said Sacred Heart Catholic School Principal Jake Rodgers.

Inside the gym, parents can pick up homework that’s not digitized. For families who have limited access to technology, Rodgers says the school is loaning out chrome books and the families are being connected with free internet resources.

“First and foremost we are going to hit the pause button on a lot of our standardized assessments because we think our curriculum is ultimately more important than the test and we want to make sure kids are learning. We are beginning with some review of things they already know while we work out the kinks in this new system but then what we’re doing in every class is we’re just making really good judgements about what they need to be prepared to go to the next grade level,” added Rodgers.

Even though kids are home, their distance-learning counts as a full instructional day.

Rodgers says it’s a moving target on when kids can be back at school.

“My hope would be, we have kids back in this library and in classrooms because that’s where the magic happens when the kids are present,” said Rodgers.

While it’s too soon to know what next year will look like, parents say the transition is different but it’s working.

“Getting to just watch their learning happen has been really, really neat,” said Coy.

On Wednesday, the Tennessee Department of Education announced a partnership with the state’s PBS stations which include: WNPT Nashville, East Tennessee PBS, WCTE Upper Cumberland, WKNO Memphis, West TN PBS, and Chattanooga WTCI.

Starting April 6th, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. EDT, students will be able to watch daily instructional content from home. The state saying four hours of content will also be streaming overnight for families to watch live or record.

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