When life gives you lemons…
HOPE — The Hope Public Schools community has taken lemons and turned them into lemonade.
The closure of all public schools in Arkansas on March 17 because of the spread of the COVID-19 illness across the state eventually brought an end to classes in the Hope Public Schools as everyone knew them for the 2019-2020 academic year. Administrators, teachers, students and parents had to make a mid-course correction and essentially prepare to fly blind for the remainder of the year; if not, through the summer, which remains to be determined.
But, when Governor Asa Hutchinson made the call, Hope Public Schools was already moving to turn the squeeze into success.
“This deviation from the norm has caused us to re-examine what we do and how we do it,” HPS Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart said. “The lessons we are learning range from new technologies to different approaches to mental health. All of these have had a more positive and equitable outcome.”
Hart said everyone has had to learn something new.
“I am proud of the way our teachers and administrators have been flexible and willing to do whatever it takes to help students succeed,” he said. “But, I am most proud of our students; the vast majority have taken their learning seriously, and are doing everything that has been asked of them.”
One of the most recognizable aspects of turning the situation into positive education has been the use of Alternative Method of Instruction materials. Packets of lesson materials have been distributed to students across the school district in both hard copy and online formats.
But, that material did not create itself.
Teams of teachers and volunteers from each campus quickly banded together, put together the packets in both formats and created drive-by delivery systems before the spread of COVID-19 effectively reduced everyone to homebound status.
AMI packet teams included: Clinton Primary — Entire certified faculty and staff; Beryl Henry Elementary — Cathleen Collins, Sonja Flemons, Misty Gilbert, Jeanie Gotham, Shirley Potts, Linda Rowe, Sandra Rhone, Cari Winemiller, and Roy Turner; Hope Academy of Public Service —Renee Arnold, Tony Hooker, Ladera Northcross, Amber Tackett, Liz Roberts, and Kylande Stewart; Yerger Middle School — Mike Radebaugh, Hosea Born, LaTonya Bradley, Tequilla Marshall, Alexis Allen, Eric Ramilo, Rebecca Tomlin, Edmundo Dominguez, Deadra Caesar-Simington, Darlene Bailey, Nancy Bradford, and Jennifer Stevens; Hope High School — Tisha Hunter, Ian Canales, Jill Carlson, Becky Morgan, Kathy Knight, and Paul Morrow; and, Creative Action Team School — Cleytus Coulter, Elisa Capetillo, Loretta Dalhover, Tanesha Alexander, and Billy Rook.
Little Library Boxes
The HAPS campus also created a mechanism for delivery and return of hard copies stemming from a student project which had not been completed when the closure came. Duke said students at HAPS had collected discarded newspaper sales racks from the former Hope Star to refurbish and use as “little libraries” around Hope.
“Our little library newspaper boxes have been used district-wide for AMI packet distribution,” she said. “We have created ways to communicate that we thought we would need. And, students have been allowed to be more creative in their approach to assignment completion.”
The instructional materials in the packets were comprehensive, Beryl Henry Elementary School Principal Dr. Roy Turner said.
“The instructional materials include math, reading, writing, science, social studies, technology, art, music; and, we incorporated a counselor’s section,” Dr. Turner said.”We also included physical education family activities focused on exercise, instruction and keeping healthy.”
Turner said the situation has created a new dynamic between teachers and students at BHE.
“Teachers are contacting students and parents each week to check on instructional progress,” he said. “And, some students have shown videos on the work to their teachers.”
Clinton Primary School Principal Ashlea Stewart said some CPS teachers have gone directly online with non-traditional students.
“Laura Gray and Mary Story are providing lessons for students on the Clinton Primary ESL Facebook page,” Stewart said.
For instance, the district was able to collaborate with the producers of the Waterford education application which was used at Clinton Primary School.
“Teachers are working to stay in contact with parents to provide assistance on AMI packets and get students enrolled in Waterford,” Stewart said.
And, the district is conducting a weekly prize drawing for Waterford usage, HPS School Improvement Specialist Carla Narlesky said.
“The drawings are on Friday and we are giving out different prizes,” Narlesky said. “Also, we currently have 64 percent of K-2 students signed up to use Waterford at home.”
She said the campus class with the most Waterford usage each day is named Waterford Warrior Class of the Day.
One of the first actions taken by the HPS was to ensure that any student or child under age 18 could have at least two meals per day through each week of the closure.
Kicking the HPS summer meals program into place, HPS Nutrition Director Deanna Gilbert and Aramark Food Services Director Cortney Nutt worked with HPS Transportation and Facilities Director Maurice Henry to devise a broad scope delivery program. Utilizing two HPS busses, meals were distributed at eight locations across Hope and Fulton.
By April 2, the program had produced and distributed more than 10,000 “grab and go” meal packages distributed Mondays through Fridays.
Nutt said some changes are forthcoming to the delivery sites, which will be announced; but, Hart said in an April 16 district leadership meeting online the program will be continued as long as the district can meet the need.
The meals are free to any child under age 18; but, the child must be present at the drive-through site to receive the meals. The meal packages provide a lunch for the day of delivery and a breakfast for the following day.
HHS Stay Connected Video
Hope High School Principal Bill Hoglund said social studies teacher Jill Self has coordinated the production of a student “stay connected” video.
Self said the project is open to all HHS students and faculty.
“If you would like to participate, please make a sign or poster with encouraging words and take a photo or short video of you giving a shout out to the Bobcat family,” Self said. “Mrs. Ware and Richie are going to put the pictures and video clips together with music that will be posted and sent out to our students, families and friends.”
Questions about the project can be directed to Self at firstname.lastname@example.org online.
Hoglund said a Facebook project is also in the works.
“We are recognizing students on Facebook through the end of the year,” he said. “Ms. Rainey will post them to Hope Bobcats Facebook page when you send her the information, with a picture of the student.”
HHS is also working toward keeping the Bobcat graduation tradition alive through the pandemic.
Hoglund and faculty/staff including Terri Hoglund, Susan Powers, Veronica Kennedy, and Kayla Jones worked with representatives of Her-Jones Co. to provide a “drive through” cap and gown delivery on April 10. And, Hoglund is attempting to coordinate a virtual commencement ceremony for graduation day in late May or early June.
“We will announce more about that as we know,” he said April 16.
One on One
Hope Collegiate Academy Dean of Students Sallie Nix said the situation has provided her with creative outlets for teaching geometry.
“Some of my more timid students will not open up in larger groups to ask questions they have on a math problem,” Nix said. “Because they are sending photos of the assignments, I can take the time to work with them back and forth on email when I would not have had the time in an hour-long class. I spend the entire day ‘talking’ to my students about math. What fun for a math major like me.”