Parents, teachers and administrators in the Kenai Peninsula School District jumped into the new reality of eLearning March 30, with school facility closures due to the coronavirus pandemic. Of the eve of the change, KDLL visited with Crista Cady, music teacher at Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science, Skyview Middle School Principal Sarge Truesdell and Nikiski mom Ambger Douglas about their hopes and concerns for the new reality of education.
This week, we check back in to see how things went.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s announcement Thursday that distance delivery of education will continue through the rest of the school year did not come as a surprise to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff says the district has been expecting to continue the remote learning system it began March 30 through the end of school May 20.

“Overall, we’ve heard really positive things. The schools are there for our kids, our nurses are reaching out, we’re doing the lunch programs. And we can always improve, so we look forward to hearing, ‘What do you need?’ And we’ll be as responsive as we can,” she said.

Meet the Douglas family. Mom and dad, Amber and John, and kids Noah, Ryan and Sawyer. Come Monday, they are going to be among the thousands of families shifting to eLearning in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.  

“I am super grateful that our teachers have had the courage that it takes to completely shift what they know about teaching kids and supporting families and be willing to put out something brand new and have the grace that we’re all going to be learning that together.”

The Douglases own Nikiski Hardware and Marine, where the office will become the schoolroom. Mom works in the office, so she’s going to take the lead on being the learning coach, technology troubleshooter, chief motivator, taskmaster and maybe a little Zen master.

“I think the big challenge for me coming into this is just understanding that we need to have balance. And if we can find these learning opportunities and be actively looking for them, they’re probably going to look different then were used to them looking, but they’re still going to be valuable. I’m going half to do some self-coaching and remind myself that they are 12, 10 and 4.”

Everywhere you look in trying to wrap your head around Monday's switch to eLearning in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, there are positives and there are negatives.

There's no positive to a global pandemic, of course. But we are solidly in the digital age and the online connection skills and tools being learned by teachers, students and parents are going to be useful even after regular school is back in session.

"Those skills are being developed and learned right now that will really help people. Even students who struggle a little bit with technology and would never want to be in an online school, some of what we're doing will help them at the college level,” said Sarge Truesdell, principal at Skyview Middle School in Soldotna.

Next week begins the grand experiment of eLearning in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Students will return to school from home Monday. In the meantime, teachers, administrators and staff are taking a crash course in how to deliver education without being able to physically interact with their classes.

We’re talking to teachers, administrators and families over the next few days to see how everybody’s getting ready for the big change.

Today, it’s Crista Cady, the music teacher at Kaleidoscope School of Arts and Science in Kenai. If you think of physically interactive classes, music is near the top of the list.

“Not being able to see my kids. Not being able to get hugs every day and not being able to hear their voices, play instruments with them,” Cady said. “I’m wondering sort of how much we’ll have to really review come fall when we’ll be back in the schools I’m predicting. I’ve been calling it the last quarter.”