TIGER— Rabun County students have been doing their schoolwork from home amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and school officials say they are continuing to work hard to ensure the students have the resources they need to be successful and have meals to eat during this time.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp issued an executive order closing K-12 public schools for in-person instruction through April 24.
Rabun County Schools Superintendent April Childers said the school system is following state guidelines which have not yet set a definite date for schools to reopen.
“We want to return as soon as it’s safe to do so, but we will wait on the governor’s guidance to determine that date,” Childers said.
However, students are completing assignments online so that they can continue to learn and will not have to make up these days.
“These days count as school days because we are teaching and learning,” Childers said.
Chromebooks were distributed to students so they can complete their online assignments at home. These were provided to all students from Pre-K to Grade 12.
The online curriculum is the same that it would be in the classroom setting, but the grading is a little different, Childers said.
“So, we’re making adjustments,” she said.
Childers said that teachers are providing instruction virtually through ways such as live discussion, video lessons and Google Hangouts, which is a communication software program.
She said that learning by watching videos is a beneficial tool because students can rewind and watch as many times as needed to retain the content.
Childers said that it’s a learning curve for teachers to provide instruction solely online and for students to learn this way, but parents and students have expressed that it’s going well.
“Everyone is doing their part and we are learning as we go,” Childers said. “Together they are adjusting to it.”
She said that teachers are available to assist students via email and phone as well. Technical support is also available.
Alternatives to online learning
Students who do not have internet access can have written work sent with them and mailed to their homes so that they can complete their assignments.
This work can be returned at the guard gate at the entrance to the school, at meal distribution locations and in the red mailbox located outside the front entrance of the Rabun County Board of Education Office, 963 Tiger Connector, Tiger.
“We’re doing everything we can to teach every child,” Childers said.
She said that students can work on their schoolwork during spring break (April 6-10) if they so choose.
“During spring break, which is next week, we are going to serve meals on Monday,” Childers said.
Habersham EMC has purchased meals to serve students ages 18 and younger during spring break.
Childers explained that the child food program the school system uses does not allow meals to be provided to students when school is closed for a short break.
“We’re thankful that Habersham EMC is doing that for us next week,” Childers said.
Each student gets 10 meals, enough for breakfast and lunch for the week.
These are sack lunches that can include food items such as PB&J sandwiches, celery, carrots, a banana, a bag of chips and a carton of milk. This varies each day.
Childers said that it’s important to inform food service workers if the child has any food allergies.
There is no income requirement whatsoever to participate in this program but students must be present when the food is picked up.
Childers said that as of Monday, March 30 they had served 700 students.
“We anticipate that to continue to grow,” Childers said.
Childers said that all information regarding meals and pickup locations is posted on the school system website, https://www.rabuncountyschools.org.
She said that they will likely add more food distribution locations in the near future and to check the website for any updates.
Putting students first
Childers praised school employees for how they have dealt with these circumstances and helped students during this unprecedented time.
“Teachers are doing a tremendous job,” Childers said. “Our team members have been troopers.”
Kelly McKay, assistant superintendent for Rabun County Schools, said that teachers are doing everything they can to provide resources to their students.
She said that one example of this is that teachers, such as third grade teacher Holli Weber, are checking out Chromebooks and delivering them to students who have parents that are not able to pick them up.
McKay explained that on Tuesday, Weber picked up a Chromebook for a student whose parent works third shift and could not check one out during the day. She planned to deliver it to the student’s house and demonstrate how to use it.
“Our teachers go above and beyond,” McKay said.
Childers said that school officials will continue to provide students with resources they need and that they should contact the school if there are any questions or concerns.
“If they need help with instruction, meals or Chromebooks, they need to let us know,” Childers said.
End of the school year
May 22 is currently scheduled to be the last day of school. Childers said that school officials do plan to have a graduation ceremony, however that date is in limbo due to the uncertainty of COVID-19.
She said that the school administration office is closed to the public, but officials can be reached by email as the best communication method.
Contact information can be found on the school system’s website.
Childers said that teachers will have more time to have instruction time with their students because they do not have to dedicate weeks to standardized testing preparation.
“State testing has been suspended for this year,” Childers said.
She said that the way the community has come together to support each other through this time has been a blessing.
“Everybody’s come together,” Childers said. “We’re really blessed with a great staff and great community.”
Childers said that in every decision that’s made and every action that takes place at Rabun County Schools is founded on the philosophy “you put students first.”