Vermont teachers struggling to provide both in-person and online lessons

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 6:03 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Many school districts thought we were leaving remote learning behind. But teachers in some schools are back to creating synchronous lessons for students to follow along with in real-time, and asynchronous lessons, which is work provided to students online for them to complete on their own time.

School staffers I spoke with are calling this school year even more complicated than last.

One teacher told me last fall, teachers had time to prepare Google classrooms, but this year, the rise in cases hit them harder and faster than expected.

“Out of my 96 students one day, I was able to educate 23 of them,” Alison Sylvester said.

Sylvester teaches math at Riverside Middle School in Springfield. She says because approximately one-quarter of their students are in quarantine, the superintendent called Monday a September snow day.

No one is attending school while contact tracing is done, but last week, Sylvester did provide lessons for students to do on their own.

“I did have remote work available. I also, to be completely honest, was not prepared for so many students to be out, so it was not the best quality,” Sylvester said.

Dave Younce, the superintendent of the Mill River Unified Union School District, says at this time, none of their students have had to quarantine.

But teachers in grades K-12 are sending weekly modules to students and families complete with expectations and learning plans, just in case students have to switch to remote.

“We found it to be pretty successful last year and found it to limit the gaps and the loss that could occur, and we expect it will do the same again this year,” Younce said.

Younce says the teaching is asynchronous because as hard as teachers tried, it is too difficult to juggle both online learners and those in-person at the same time.

“And when they get back with us in-person, everybody is right where they need to be,” Younce said.

But some school districts took the synchronous approach, like Melissa Parker and Wendy McGuiggan’s fifth-grade classes at the Main Street Middle School in Montpelier.

Even though all tools were in place, technological issues like students’ screens freezing and being booted out of meetings became a challenge.

“We had to prepare asynchronous work on Google classroom for those who weren’t able to access class,” McGuiggan said.

While this time of the year is primarily review, Parker says it is also when students and their teachers are learning about each other, which is also important.

Reporter Olivia Lyons: Are you prepared to go back to remote if needed?

Melissa Parker: Yes, we are.

Wendy McGuiggan: We always are.

Melissa Parker: But we don’t talk that way.

We will continue to track the cases within schools, as will the governor’s team; he is expected to address the rise in cases during Tuesday’s regular COVID briefing.

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