In these days of “social distancing” and “self-isolation,” it seems that the Coronavirus pandemic has changed many of our routines and has even made people fearful. Just as the world seems to be pulling apart from one another, the staff of Rowan County Schools are pulling together in a variety of ways to meet the needs of the students during this unprecedented closure.
When Governor Andy Beshear mandated the closure of schools in Kentucky’s 172 school districts, administrators and teachers had to quickly come up with plans to meet the educational and nutritional needs of students. In Rowan County, Superintendent John Maxey led the charge as alternate plans were put in place to both educate and feed over 3000 students. These plans included Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) student learning packets and meal delivery for students. Employees across the District have been going above and beyond during this emergency closure to fulfill these plans.
To help students continue their school assignments and support their learning, the Rowan County School District applied for a waiver to allow the District to provide Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) on the days when schools are closed during the pandemic. Administrators and teachers put together packets of materials for each grade level and each subject area for students to work on during the closure.
Some parents have been coming to the schools to pick up packets while, in other cases, bus drivers and other staff members have been delivering student packets to homes. It is important to note that teachers will be available by email or by phone to answer any questions that students or parents may have regarding the NTI packets.
Besides providing assignments and guidance in the NTI student learning packets, some teachers have been “caught” going above and beyond to provide learning opportunities for their students. Genny Jenkins, director of Gifted and Talented Education, has created YouTube videos of her reading The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe while, before reading a bedtime story, Clearfield Elementary School counselor April Ratliff tried to reassure students, telling them that they are part of history and will be able to tell their children about their experiences during the Coronavirus. Teachers at McBrayer Elementary School have set up a schedule on their Facebook page to read or create activities for their students. Kim Armstrong is keeping MES students active with a variety of exercises they can do while schools are closed. Humor along with important information is on the menu with Rowan County Middle School teachers Amanda Mason and James Hood’s NTI daily update videos.
Noting how empty the school buildings seem to be without students, some teachers wanted to ride the school buses during meal deliveries. They miss seeing their students but they also want to reassure their students by letting them visit with their teachers from a safe distance.
Ensuring that students’ nutritional needs are met during the closure has been challenging but it has also pulled staff members together to meet the challenge. Food service personnel have been busily preparing both hot and cold meals that parents can pick up at each of the District’s four elementary schools. Bus drivers and staff members are also traveling to students’ homes whose families might have transportation issues to deliver meals.
One gentleman called Rowan County Schools to say how proud he was of Rowan County Schools for going above and beyond. Rhonda Read, secretary to Supt. John Maxey, stated, “This caller said that he found himself behind a school bus and, at first, questioned why there were buses on the road with schools closed. But when he realized that these drivers were delivering meals to the students, he said this was the first time he was ‘happy’ to be behind a school bus.”
During the school year, the Family Resource and Youth Service Centers assists at-risk students with the Backpack Snack program. Each Friday, these students are sent home with a variety non-perishable nutritious snacks that helps to meet their nutrition needs over the weekends. Thanks to the dedicated staff members of the Family Resource and Youth Service Centers, the Backpack Snack program is continuing throughout school closures. Some staff members will be making home deliveries of some of the snack bags while bus drivers will be delivering the remainder of the snack bags with their meal deliveries.
Pat Richmond, director of the Family Resource Centers at Rodburn and Tilden Hogge Elementary Schools, stated, “We want to make sure that we have food items to give to the students that we serve. Even though the schools are closed, we are determined to continue the Backpack Snack program. The kids look forward to these bags during the school year and even more so now.”
Renee Smith, director of District Health Services, and her team of nurses have been at the buildings taking temperatures of all staff members reporting for duty and all visitors to the buildings. “We are taking all precautions necessary to make sure that everyone that is working is healthy,” said Mrs. Smith.
She then added, “When I was getting my lunch at a drive-through, the restaurant employee saw my badge and thanked me for what the district was doing to provide meals and packets for the children. I don’t think I have ever been more proud of our employees.”
Supt. John Maxey has traveled throughout the District and has seen Rowan County Schools employees working beyond their normal duties. He noted, “Throughout these uncertain times, our focus will continue to be the care of our students. They look to us for not only instruction, but they also depend on us for health care, mental health needs, and nutrition. They rely on us for stability and consistency in their lives.”
He then added, “The employees of the Rowan County School District have shown their true selves – going above and beyond and pulling together for the students of this District.”