District Prepares for Online Classes

Tomorrow, all RSD students will return to school. However, the students will not be returning to their desks or seeing their classmates face-to-face as RSD will be utilizing online technology to deliver content.

Media by Sarah Harris
Teachers will use apps like Canvas, Zoom, and Google Classroom to communicate with their students.

Dr. Shelley Willott, Assistant Superintendent of Learning and Support Services, said, by now, teachers should have contacted their students regarding future classroom plans. 

Teachers can choose their teaching platform: Canvas, Google Classroom, Zoom, email, phone calls or Google Hangouts.

To continue school during a pandemic, Dr. Willott said RSD knew they would have to transfer to online but that presented problems as not every RSD student has access to computers or WiFi.

On Sunday, March 22, the technology program handed out 6,500 Chromebooks to elementary students within the district. Their families drove up and then picked up their child’s new Chromebook.

“It was fast, efficient and it ensured that all students will have access,” Dr. Willott said.

While discussing online school, the technology department attempted to get WiFi hotspots for the families who needed them. However, as of right now, there is a nation-wide shortage of WiFi hotspots. 

Deb Ketring, Chief Information Officer, has been in contact with multiple carriers in hopes of finding a solution. Dr. Willott said her hard work paid off and they think they will be able to get WiFi to those who need it within the next week. 

While Dr. Willott said there are some concerns regarding these new learning experiences, she said the teachers and administration have collaborated to make sure the students are physically, emotionally and academically taken care of. As problems and concerns arise, she said they will work together to address them.

“We are using electronic tools to deliver content in an emergency situation at a time we are physically unable to be at school,” Dr. Willott said. “Rockwood has a great, knowledgeable staff who were basically able to work miracles in a short period of time to keep learning going to the best of their abilities,” Dr. Willot said. 

Dr. Willott said many teachers have had to change their lesson plans and some have decided to get rid of tests and quizzes.

“The Learning and Support Services and Technology departments have done a great deal of research on online learning in the last few years,” Dr. Willott said. “Best practices in online learning points us to having students create something, whether that be a video, a presentation or a product to demonstrate what they have learned.” 

For students enrolled in classes that require specific materials such as a kiln for ceramics or an oven for Foods and Nutrition, Dr. Willott said those students will not have the same experiences, but learning will continue.

“This situation has brought out our teachers’ best qualities: adaptability, positivity and a general desire to help students learn given the tools they have available,” Dr. Willott said.

Dr. Willott said within her 25 years of educational experience, she has never witnessed anything like this. Yet, with everything that is happening, she is impressed with the RSD community.

“Throughout this whole process, I haven’t heard anyone say they couldn’t or wouldn’t do something that was asked of them,” Dr. Willot said. “For that, I am eternally grateful.”