Teachers learning the ropes of distance education

Mar 19, 2020

Credit KPBSD

Next week should bring answers to some pretty big questions for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

District Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff said they expect to hear from the Department of Education on whether they should continue school closures and if there will be waivers for mandated assessments.

“The one thing that we’ve got going for us is that, unfortunately, this is nationwide. So, we’re not here on the Kenai trying to figure this out all on our own. We have the entire state, with superintendents across the state, that are talking to the Department of Education in Alaska, and every single state is asking these same questions,” she said.

The district is using this week to prepare for delivering education remotely. Teachers are working on learning distance-delivery technology and planning how to modify lessons to be given via the internet or through the mail. The district is asking parents to complete a survey this week about their resources and needs at home to facilitate distance education.

“Some of the questions were, is there a device at home that a child could use? If you have an Internet ability to be on a browser on a computer? And ff you have wireless, how strong is it, what’s the availability? So, it’s questions like that as well as, is there anything else that you need us to know or that we can do to help you? And then we know we have several families, many families, that don’t have internet or devices at home,” Erkeneff said.

It won’t just be teachers and students involved in this process. Parents will likely need to learn some new skills, as well.

“And they’re not going to be left out hanging to dry. How do I do this? When and if we do, there’s some learning the parents will have and they’ll get some professional development and they’ll have resources to be able to learn and our teachers are going to work with our families and the district will, as well,” she said.

Because staff are working this week, the extra spring break for students is being treated like in-service days in the school calendar, meaning the school year won’t have to be extended into June to have the required number of teacher days.

But just because kids are home, doesn’t mean they can’t still be fed. The district rolled out a program Tuesday providing breakfasts and lunches to students.

“You go to the spot that you sign up for. And there’s a bus there and there’s cones to separate people but I believe right now what we’re doing is going up to the car, so we’re not even having people get out of vehicles,” Erkeneff said.

Every student attending a KPBSD school is eligible to receive breakfast and lunch. Students who attend schools that meet designated, low-income guidelines are not only eligible for meals themselves, but every youth under the age of 18 in their home can get meals, too.

“We have a lot of kids that come to school every day and their only meals re at school and we know that food is essential and kids can’t learn without it and we want our community to know that we care for them so we really pushed to lift this one as fast as we could,” she said. 

On Tuesday, the district delivered just over 80 meals to students. They had to stop delivery in Seward today and tomorrow, with a case of coronavirus being confirmed, but still delivered 1,354 meals to students today. The program could be further interrupted if community spread of the virus begins, but for now, anyone wanting to sign up can call Student Nutrition Services at 714-8890.

The district posts regular updates on its website, kpbsd.k12.ak.us, and Facebook page