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Bethel Schools complete first week of distance learning

Elisabeth Slay

Like other school districts throughout the state Bethel Public Schools is halfway into its second week of distance learning and social distancing.

According to Superintendent Tod Harrison, Bethel is continuing to work on its distance learning plan, but the first week went well.

"The distance learning plan continued to develop as the week passed. Our delivery methods vary depending on a student's access or lack of access to reliable internet," Harrison said. "Our staff has worked hard to make these determinations and provide what works best for each student."

Harrison said educators and students have been working well and settling into their new normal. "Teachers and students are all new to this type of instruction delivery. Everyone has been open to any and all flexibility needed," Harrison said. "As a whole, all are adapting well to our new adventure."

Like teachers and students, Harrison said the Bethel community has been supportive and families have stepped up as they take on the responsibility of monitoring students' education.

"Our community has stepped up as our partner in this uncharted territory. Parents, grandparents, relatives and guardians are in new roles as a child's teacher and principal," Harrison said. "They immediately exhibited a willingness to accept this new found responsibility. We will continue to learn through this process as a community and a district."

The superintendent explained one of the biggest challenges the district has faced is providing internet access to all of its students.

"As we evaluate information and data about our current process we will look to the future. One of the main immediate concerns to address is limited internet access in certain areas within our district boundaries," Harrison said. "Our plan will be developed around the determined needs of our students and families. Planning for a future we cannot easily predict will require the consideration of many possibilities. That is a challenge we will work together as a staff and a state to be prepared for."

Harrison is looking forward to the future and hopes the community and all its members will stay safe and remain in good health.

"On a more local level, my hope is that we can all take away something from this experience that will benefit us as we approach education in the future," Harrison said. "There will be much good that comes from this unexpected episode for educators. New tools and approaches will be used. We will step out of our comfort zones. When that happens we grow and will be better prepared to serve our students."

Harrison said he's thankful to the Bethel teachers and staff and they have adapted well to this new age of social distancing and distance learning.

"Our cafeteria ladies have been serving breakfast and lunch to almost one-third of our students since March 25," Harrison said. "Their efforts are greatly appreciated. This is a total community effort and we are in it together. We will come out of it together on the other side and be better for it."