One of the many advantages of Potosi High School is the ability of the staff and community to work together to keep our kids well educated. During this COVID outbreak, Potosi High School is the only school in the surrounding area that has not shut down as a whole school. We have had classes here and there that get contact traced, but we have not had to close the whole district.
It has helped many students mentally and physically to stay in person. It is also easier for the teachers, being able to have the materials they need right in front of them. At this exact same time last year our entire school and surrounding schools all shut down. I spoke to Tanya Kopp from Cuba City Elementary school and she made it very clear that shutting down unexpectedly was not great for the kids or staff. As a teacher, you always want what is best for the students, but you need to take care of yourself through this time as well. “Shutting at various times unexpectedly is very time-consuming and a bit nerve-racking. I've tried to tell myself to just do what I can do and it will be enough,” Kopp said.
The next aspect of this experience is to look at how all the schools are dealing with the shutting down at various times. I can tell you that being a student at Potosi High School during this time has been a huge blessing. I have had to be quarantined for ten days, but nothing as bad as shutting down as a whole school. “I feel that overall our school has dealt with virtual very well. We had trained prior to Covid due to the Polar Vortex, so we had a system in place; we just tweaked it a bit. We all worked together and reminded ourselves that this is a pandemic. We are doing our best,” said Kopp. The only thing during this time that is going to help everyone is the community, the staff, and the students pulling together to help each other.
If everyone would be able to have a choice, we would all go to school in person. It is a lot easier to teach, to learn, and to manage all students in one classroom. Again, it all comes down to the ability of everyone working together to make this difficult time a lot easier for the students and staff of the schools. “ I would rather teach face-to-face. With the guidelines in place, and our community’s willingness to follow those guidelines, [it] definitely helped keep things in check,” voiced Kopp.
Time management is another key factor when talking about going virtual. The fact that everything in your home is around you, like laundry, or dishes, that are sitting in the sink needing to be done, and you have kids, trying to help them out while trying to do your own job is a very difficult task. Virtual learning is a very hard task that takes special staff and students to make it work. “I feel that I really can't grasp time management for virtual when dealing with Covid,” shared Kopp.
Another thing that people have to take into account is the fact that when some students are virtual and some aren’t, you have to try to work around all of the other factors playing into Covid. For example, if a student is quarantined without warning, the teacher is trying to get all of that student’s materials like worksheets, IPads, or Chromebooks ready for an undetermined amount of time. This is something that teachers did not think was part of the job description. “You get a call or an email to send a child down to the office with all of their work for an undetermined amount of time and you just go from there. Most parents have been very understanding, knowing that as teachers we are still teaching a classroom in person. We can't just stop what we're doing and pack up belongings ASAP,” Kopp said.
One thing that threw everyone for a loop last year was the urgency of getting out of school as quickly as we could. In this pandemic, no one knew what COVID was going to throw at us. It is still an uncertainty for many students that at any minute we are going to shut down again. Knowing when you are going to shut down would help a lot. It gives you time to mentally and physically prepare for the challenge that is going to be thrown at you. “If I do know before, it does help to get what is needed, and also I can plan things within their Chromebook. All students in our building have devices of their own,” Kopp mentioned. It helps a lot that the school provides us all with Chromebooks that we can use when we are virtual, and that we can Zoom on. Some students, if not for that, may not have the financial standing to afford those electronics, so school has helped in that way as well.
During this time, how do you take care of your students and your children at the same time? Again, it all ties into the time management factor. Challenges can include finding places to Zoom where your kids aren’t going to be in the camera, finding space where all of you can talk and no one else can hear you, and finding time to spend with your family in general. COVID has been extremely difficult for schools and communities in the surrounding areas. “When we were first quarantined last March, it was rough going. I have a family of my own; three of them were students at the time. It was tough finding places to Zoom from, where you had a quiet place and didn't have to worry about someone saying something or walking past your screen. My high school child definitely preferred school vs. virtual. He needed the structure and the routine. The worry of the pandemic and getting Covid really hit us hard mentally as well. We lost a very good friend to Covid and felt we needed to do our best to protect ourselves as well as others,” said Kopp.
Everyone is fighting this pandemic that we call COVID. Everyone is fighting as a community, a school district, staff, and students to make this pandemic somewhat bearable. Teachers work day and night to find new ways to better their students' education. Students show up to school every day ready to conquer whatever is thrown at them, and the community will always be there to support one another. Community is a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Together is what is going to get us through this.