Sara Wuchte is talking to her eight 2nd and 3rd graders during their morning meeting on YouTube. Wuchte is a special education teacher at Elvehjem Elementary, but Sara’s not at school. Instead, she is talking to students from our living room.
She wasn’t able to have closure with her students when in-person classes were abruptly cancelled last month.
“I chose the job that I did because I like to be around people and engaged all day and not sitting at my computer,” Wuchte says. “So this is like a complete, like more than 180, from what my normal job is like, and I just miss them so much.”
Because of her student’s ability levels, Wuchte says some aren’t able to engage in virtual learning without significant help. But their parents have stepped in and connected via video chat. “For my higher needs students, I am doing zoom calls with them daily, which sometimes ends up being a zoom call with their parents.”
Some Madison students receive occupational or physical therapy at school. District Director of Student Services John Harper says staff won’t be going into students’ homes. Instead, they will use videos to help students, parents, or caretakers do therapy at home.
Harper says, “Each of our occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech and language clinicians, special ed teachers, are right now planning for how best to deliver services that are individualized to each student with a disability.”
In a press conference held online last week Interim Superintendent Jane Belmore asked for patience and understanding as Madison Public School District moves to virtual learning.
“We will always be unapologetic in our equity stance, as we believe our virtual learning plan is clearly an important equity strategy,” Belmore explained. “We have worked hard to develop content and opportunities that honor the emotional and social needs of our students. As they also honor the academic deserve and need.”
Belmore says attendance will be taken at the end of every week to make sure the students are still engaged. For parents who need to go to work or are struggling to help their child, Belmore says this week is about identifying and troubleshooting with these families.
Belmore’s role as interim superintendent is scheduled to end in June. But recent hire Dr. Matthew Gutierrez announced this week he is staying in Texas. The school board is scheduled to have a closed meeting on Monday, April 13th to discuss next steps.
Madison students are expected to be engaged with learning for a maximum of 1 to 3 hours a day depending on their grade level. Students will access assignments on the online platforms Seesaw or Google Classroom. They will also use Zoom to engage in video conferences. To help students get online, over 6 thousand district laptops were mailed to elementary school students over the weekend. Parents are being expected to help their students access assignments, set goals, establish routines, and communicate with teachers.
Earlier today on the district’s Facebook page, Assistant Director of Integrated Health Armando Hernández spoke about practicing wellness and managing stress. Among his recommendations were getting enough sleep, eating healthy, doing physical movement. He also says? Be kind.