A small Georgia district saw an opportunity to completely revamp outdated practices and policies during the pandemic

Onwards and upwards: How one district not only survived, but thrived, through the pandemic

A small Georgia district saw an opportunity to completely revamp outdated practices and policies during the pandemic

Then there is something as simple as the flexibility with attendance. When we returned face to face, the first thing we said was, “Parents, if your child is ill, they do not come to school. Even if it is allergies, we’re not taking the chances. They must stay home.” And of course, as a family member, they worry about attendance protocols and their seat time. But we said, “Whoa, we’ve got Google Classroom, you’ve got a one-to-one device. So you’re ill today, log in and participate.” As soon as we did that, our classrooms became open spaces. Our teachers are transparent with our families. We want you to be present, but we don’t want your runny nose as part of the plan. As soon as we did that, we saw the worry from families kind of subside, and we saw kids become more engaged.

eSN: The recent push by industry and government to provide bandwidth for all students seems to be happening. What will that mean for your district?

KB: It’s life-changing. During [the] pandemic we were able to work with our local technical college and run WiFi extenders throughout our community. We did them about every half mile. Then we were able to put extenders in business parking lots. So we had about 35 extenders throughout our community, but even that didn’t touch everybody. And even with that, it still didn’t have a sense of equity. As a mom, my child could log on from her bedroom, be comfortable, do what she needed to do. Her friend also had access, but had to go across the street to get a better signal. She didn’t have it in an equitable way. And so being able to have the ability to have more fiber, and have more connections so that it’s just like running water in your home, is absolutely going to be a game changer.

eSN: It’s amazing that you have been able to make these improvements during such a terrible time.

KB: It’s true. I mean, really, what, shut the world down? It could have torn us apart. We just used it to pull ourselves up from the boots and say, “Look at our kids, look what they can do.” It’s easy to get yourself knocked down and not get back up. Um, but we’ve used it to just push forward and it’s created a sense of pride. That’s really transparent across the district and it’s contagious.

So we’re very much looking forward to August 9th. That’s our first day back. We’ve already got kids up in our buildings now doing what we’re calling summer STEMcation—just a lot of project-based learning and we’re doing it with a camp mindset. They’re in the parking lot, 15 minutes before the doors are opening. We just want to keep that enthusiasm for when school starts back, because we know that we can exceed and do great things. And we have a platform now that people see us and we’ve been heard, and we don’t want to go back to what it used to be.

Kevin Hogan

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