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Shawnee students finish first week of distance learning

Elisabeth Slay
First grader Dakota and fourth grader Emily from Will Rogers Elementary School working on a distance learning activity.

Shawnee Public Schools (SPS) was one of several districts across the state who completed their first week of distance learning as schools remain closed due to COVID-19 concerns.

According to SPS Superintendent Dr. April Grace, the week went well for Shawnee students and teachers as they started their virtual lessons and educational activities.

Grace said calendars detailing the remainder of the year are available for students and parents in many different ways.

"Learning Calendars are being delivered by buses at breakfast and lunch every Thursday for the next week," Grace said. "We also have them at school sites for curbside pick-up by appointment only. In addition, Walmart and Homeland (on Independence) have graciously agreed to display them at their stores for patrons. Everything is available online with our Continuous Distance Learning Plan website."

SPS, Grace said is ensuring that all students receive the supplies and items they need to complete assignments and projects while they learn at home.

"We are currently working with Mission Shawnee to get supplies that align with calendar activities and books into the hands of students that may need them," Grace said. "We currently have about 150 bags of materials that will be delivered at school sites for curbside pick-up on Monday."

Grace said the supplies will be provided as long as they last and each school will work with families to work out the best time to pick up their supplies.

"Mission Shawnee has also agreed to help make porch deliveries for people who cannot get to a school site to pick up the needed materials, they can contact their site to schedule a drop off," Grace said.

Grace said over the last week students have been working hard on their lessons and activities and many families have shared pictures with the district portraying how well students are doing.

"We have received many pictures of students at work, and we will begin displaying those on our Continuous Learning website. We are proud of their hard work and efforts," Grace said.

It is important, Grace said for parents to stay in contact with their children's teachers and the district is also making sure communication methods are available.

"Teachers are contacting families at least twice a week by phone, class apps, social media, Zoom, Google Hangouts, etc," Grace said. "That is also going very well.We continue to explore options for families that may need access to the internet, either now or in the future."

The superintendent said despite uncertainty and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic the district and its students are adapting well to the change.

"Overall, we are very pleased with how things are going. We know this is a difficult time for students and families, because this is such a shift and was so abrupt," Grace said. "We miss our students and staff. But we are so thankful with how everyone has done their best to stay connected as a school family."

Grace said there are several different resources available on the district's Continuous Distance Learning Plan website and more will be added as they come up.

"We are also continuing to have conversations about summer school, ramp up prior to fall and then what the beginning of school may look like either in person or virtually," Grace said.

In addition to the distance learning, Grace said the meal deliveries have been going well as 18,000 meals were served to students and SPS is working with ShawneeCTV to do a live virtual graduation on May 18 at 7 p.m.

"We have rescheduled the in-person graduation for July 17 a 7 p.m. at Firelake. We are also honoring seniors each day of the week on our social media platforms. So follow the district or myself for those shout-outs," Grace said.

Grace said she is happy with how things are going and she appreciates the SPS staff and community members' hard work and support.

"I am extremely proud and humbled how everyone has come together during this time. We have an amazing group of educators here and an unbelievable community of support," Grace said.