Administrators and teachers in the Fife School District are trying to find a solution that will allow them to effectively teach online classes to their students.
The problem is echoed throughout the state as all schools have been closed and all school districts have been told by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee to finish off the year online. Gov. Inslee shut down all schools April 6 in an attempt to slow the rapid spread of the Coronavirus.
Fife is now struggling along with the rest of the state’s school districts.
The Fife School District has about 3,800 students spread across six different schools, all of who are now attending school online.
Gov. Inslee also announced on April 6 that in-person teaching will not resume and instead has closed schools through June 19. Fife has attempted to transition to online teaching using online tools such as Zoom, Google Classroom, Google Hangouts, Delta Math, Khan Academy and Quizlet.
The teachers of Fife are also having problems teaching on a completely new platform. Kalisa DeLibero is an English teacher at Fife High School. She is also struggling with having two children at home.
One of them is a senior and has just lost the rest of his high school experience. This means that he, along with all of the other high school seniors in the state, will most likely not get the chance to walk at graduation, attend prom or do any of the special activities that the Fife School District has for their seniors. One of which is walking down the hallways of all six schools in caps and gowns to celebrate how far each senior has come since walking down those hallways for the first time.
“I love my job. Being in that world, I chose to do it,” DeLibero said. She later added that because she cannot be actively teaching, her parenting “…turns into me trying to do my job while nagging my kids.”
While DeLibero has not been actively teaching new material, she is sending review packets to her students to make sure they do not lose the instruction.
DeLibero’s advice for students and teachers struggling is to have a schedule “even if it feels like walking in mud with flip flops. Sadness is mud and it sucks you in.” She added that having a community to support you and relate to you is also very important.
Katy Baur, an art teacher at Fife High School, is attempting to make art lessons with materials that everyone will have in their home.
Baur said she is experimenting with tea and coffee to paint with so that all her students can be able to participate in her art class. She also said she is thinking about having her students do more research based projects.
Baur said finding a work-life balance is tricky right now because she is having to learn an entirely new platform while teaching as normally as she can. “I almost feel like I am working more hours,” she said about the new way of teaching.
Baur said that the participation of students is currently low but said she hopes it will soon increase once assignments stop being review and become graded.
Others at the school also find themselves juggling a lot of tasks at once.
“I’m working really hard,” said Brandon Bakke, Fife High School principal. He said he thinks Fife was prepared enough for the current quarantine but, there are still a lot of things to get done such as deciding how to give out diplomas to seniors and how to register the incoming sophomores.
Bakke said there are at least seven meetings a day for him, discussing topics such as how to hire new staff members and how to continue on with the year.
Cheryl Reid-Simons, the vice-president of the Fife School District Board of Directors, has advice for students and teachers.
“Try not to stress too much about what this looks like,” she said “Everything is going to be ok. It will be different, but you will adapt. That is the great thing about humans, we adapt.”
The things on Reid-Simon’s mind are the things on everyone’s mind. Reid-Simons said she was concerned about whether all students will be able to have internet access, how parents with jobs will get child care, if the seniors will have a graduation and especially how long should they plan for having online school.
In some ways Fife may be more prepared for these new restrictions than other districts. Fife has a 1:1 Chromebook plan, which means that every student has a Chromebook that they can use and take home to do their homework on.
Because of the 1:1 plan, most teachers were already putting some assignments online and using online materials to supplement in-person teaching.
Though Fife has had these materials that may make this transition easier, teachers are still having a hard time using online meeting tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts. DeLibero said teacher communities have been sharing tips and tricks to help each other adjust, saying “Teachers will teach. We will figure out a way.”
“When we are through with all of this, Fife will be a better school overall,” Brandon Bakke said. Bakke said Fife should allow itself to be sad for all that it has lost but, in the end, the district will pick up the pieces and come back stronger than before.