Virtual or face-to-face, it’s still a learning experience for Richmond County students

Published: Sep. 8, 2020 at 2:57 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - For the first time since March 16, Richmond County schools are back in person.

Virtual learning

We got a look inside our local schools, but first we will see how virtual learning is starting up.

Nearly 60 percent of Richmond County students will be learning from home.

The first day of virtual at Bayvale Elementary has been parents calling in and troubleshooting, but teachers and students are getting creative to calm any fears.

There’s footsteps in the hallways, but just behind some classroom doors, teachers are connecting with their students online.

“The phone has been ringing off the hook all morning,” media specialist Stephanie Watford said. “But all the parents have been super nice about it just trying to get their children on and learning.”

Watford is the media specialist at Bayvale. She’s been busy helping parents with canvas and Microsoft Teams all day.

“A lot of things are simple little things like not capitalizing a letter or missing a period in their username or password,” Watford said.

“We just have to get the hang of things,” parent TiAndrea Walker said.

Walker transformed her daughter’s room into a classroom.

“It feels like I’m at home learning, and just like not being bored,” TiAndrea’s daughter, Kennedi Walker, said.

But this morning took getting used to.

“it was kind of difficult at first getting on with the teacher and all of the kids, but after maybe 30 minutes everything was taken care of,” Walker said.

More than half of Richmond County students will be learning behind a computer screen this fall, so school officials say the first week will be about second chances and getting the technology figured out.

But teachers are getting creative.

“A lot of teachers are setting up their virtual classrooms online using Bitmoji classrooms,” Watford said. “It excites the children and makes them happy to come back.”

Watford says she’s seen some teachers get a new spark from online learning. Some have been training every day during the summer. But nothing is perfect, so schools are asking for understanding.

“Be really patient,” Watford said. “We are all learning in this together.”

Richmond County schools say most of their technical problems are being fixed over the phone. But if that doesn’t work, they’re replacing laptops or hotspots where it’s needed.

Face-to-face learning

Nearly 60 percent of Richmond County students are learning only through virtual platforms. The other 13,000 are split up with some kindergarten through 5th grade students going back today.

Come Thursday, middle and high schoolers head back.

We’ve heard from students, parents, and teachers -- the first day back has been a mix of good and a bit crazy. But everyone seems to be solving problems and working together.

“It was a little odd,” parent Lynnette Jones said. “I didn’t actually get to walk them to their classroom. I didn’t get to greet their teachers, tell them my name, and see them.”

Jones dropped off three of her children at Wilkinson Gardens Elementary. Although it’s an odd time as a parent, her two twins were taking it hard too.

“They are separated in classrooms, so Keith was consoling Vincent because he got upset,” Jones said.

Jones, along with many other parents, are teaching their kids how to handle being back in class. But in class and in the hallways, students know what they need to do to stay safe.

“The teachers were engaged, and the students were engaged,” District 5 School Board Trustee Patsy Scott said. “They were ready to learn.”

Scott says the guidelines are all in place and working well.

Whether in-person or online, the school district says they’ll make the decisions on the next few weeks based on the numbers.

“We receive daily reports, so this is ongoing monitoring of the cases and the data for our community,” Superintendent Kenneth Bradshaw said.

School officials say it’s likely inevitable there will be cases of COVID. So the district is developing an online dashboard where everyone can see how many cases are at each school.

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