ANDERSON — Anderson Community Schools will be back in session Monday after two weeks of spring break.
But unlike most years, there will be no lectures in the classrooms, giggles on playgrounds or hum of students talking in the cafeteria.
Instead, the district will be handing out homework packets and meals to sustain students during the statewide schools closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools are to be closed at least through May 1 as part of the governor’s shelter in place directive.
ACS interim Superintendent Joe Cronk said even though the buildings are closed as we go through a national crisis, it’s important for students to return to their educational routines and complete the assignments made by their teachers.
“A quote I have always liked came from the Harry Potter series, ‘Even in the darkest of times, happiness can be found simply by turning on the light,’” he said. “Part of that light is a return to somewhat of a routine, and being able to provide both nutritional and educational services to our students. I look forward to seeing families at our food distributions, and want to assure everyone that there is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel; there are many teachers and staff here at ACS to support them.”
ACS will offer instruction Monday, Wednesday and Friday and use state-granted waiver days, which don’t have to be made up, to cover Tuesday and Thursday. Other districts are using similar models.
ACS bus drivers and other staff volunteers will be distributing the education packets and breakfasts and lunches 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. Andrea Meadows, elementary and intermediate eLearning instructional coach for ACS, said though some districts are able to distribute a week’s worth of food at a time, ACS students will need to pick theirs up daily, for now.
“We were talking more in the case of like a snowstorm or something like that. We never imagined not being able to return to the buildings,” she said.
Though some districts in Madison County and surrounding communities are using eLearning for the first time, ACS has a little experience with it, having used it for a total of about 10 days over the past two years.
Because eLearning was developed to cover one or two days of school, younger students must be given physical packets that, for some who have equipment at home, can be supplemented digitally, she said.
“With the extended closure we don’t have the capability to send out chargers with all of our students,” she said. The tablets used at the younger levels must be recharged on a cart at the schools.
The packets for the first 10 days were created and distributed before spring break. Subsequent packets are being developed weekly by grade-level committees, who meet through online tools, such as Zoom, Meadows said.
“We’re kind of learning along with the students. We are learning virtually, too,” the former special education teacher said. “The biggest challenge is this is uncharted for everybody, so we work through the challenges as they come up. There will be more lessons to be learned as we negotiate the challenges that still lay ahead,”
Students regardless of the school they attend will receive the same lessons based on the Indiana standards, as opposed to the individualized classroom activities teachers normally develop themselves, Meadows said.
She admits the instruction, which requires teachers to post assignments by 10 a.m. daily at the upper levels, may not provide quite the same depth as face-to-face classroom instruction.
“I think that we’re giving them the best that we can with the situation that’s been presented,” she said. “Quite honestly, we were able to pool our resources and pull together the best product we can with everybody working together rather than doing things separately.”
One challenge, Meadows said, was getting the packets to families, though they will be available at the ACS website. Because all ACS students receive free lunch, the food distribution sites provide the perfect vehicle.
“We figure if parents are coming to pick up food, they will be there where they can grab the packets, as well,” she said.