Studying At Home

Carter Hlavinka, a sophomore at El Campo High School, studies AP chemistry Monday during the first day of online learning for El Campo ISD.  Schools will remain closed until at least May 4 due to the Coronavirus. 

Local schools are closed until further notice due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but that doesn’t mean education stops. El Campo ISD students broke out computers Monday for their first day of online classes.

“Despite nerves and stress, our teachers have learned new technologies and are doing a great job of connecting with students,” Assistant Superintendent Dolores Trevino said.

Students received their main lessons through a virtual instruction website called Odysseyware, and teachers hosted tutorials over video calls organized by grade and subject to answer questions. Tutorial attendance is not required, but up to 100 students logged on for each tutorial, according to campus principals.

El Campoan Emilie Kahanek Fowler has two children, one in pre-K and one in second grade. She was one of many parents tackling the online curriculum Monday.

“It’s all a little confusing, but I understand it is the first day,” Fowler said via the Leader-News Facebook page. “Hopefully things will get smoother. I appreciate all EC teachers and staff!”

A concern district officials are navigating is unequal student access to resources, with about 25 percent of students not having Internet access. The district has compiled a list of students in need, Trevino said, and parents should reach out to campus principals if their child doesn’t have access to the necessary resources.

“Those without Internet connection are being given alternate assignments and corresponding with their teachers individually,” Hutchins Elementary Principal Elizabeth Tupa said.

Some parents are working during the pandemic or otherwise unable to help students with their at-home studies.

At-home education is “kind of hard considering I’m a single mom of three and work full-time taking care of special needs adults during the day,” Tiffany DeLuna said on the Leader-News Facebook page.

To receive credit for a core subject, students must complete at least 50 percent of online assignments during the school closure.

“We’re working with (students) and … we have teachers online that will be able to help,” El Campo Middle School Principal Gary Figirova said. “It’s not a sprint to the finish line ... We don’t want them to stress over this.”

The district lent about 1,200 laptops to students in need in March, and is pursuing other ways to make WiFi accessible, such as possibly lending out hotspots to students.

Free WiFi is available in the parking lots of all ECISD campuses; Ricebird Stadium and the El Campo ISD building, 700 W. Norris; the Northside Education Center, 707 Fahrenthold; all Wharton County public libraries and Louise High School, 408 Second.

“Thank you to the parents and guardians that are working with their child and trying to figure this online learning out,” Northside Elementary Principal Rebecca Crowell said. “We could not do it without them.”

Tutorial recordings, along with teacher’s office hours and other at-home schooling information, is available at www.ecisd.org/ecisd-home-instruction. Assistance in English or Spanish is also available through the ECISD COVID-19 hot-line at 979-543-8477.

District officials ask that students hold on to their two-week curriculum packets they completed before online learning began. The packets will be collected at a later date.

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