SHS provides mandated distance learning to students
TAHLEQUAH – Since it was mandated for Oklahoma schools to begin distance learning on April 6 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sequoyah High School administrators and teachers have been working with students to ensure they have the necessary tools to continue their educations.
Called distance learning, most students are able to perform assignments at home via online work, paper packets, or saving their work another way.
“In the very beginning of the school closings due to COVID-19, we were utilizing our messenger service, Facebook, Twitter and school email to communicate with students,” Mark Vance, Cherokee Nation Education Services deputy executive director, said. “The distance learning plan was developed when the (Oklahoma) State Department of Education announced that students and teachers would not be allowed back into school buildings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Vance said in the first two weeks it became evident students without internet access needed a way to acquire assignments. “A network link was established for this purpose. Teachers were then able to add assignments if necessary, and the students could come by the school to pick up a flash drive with the work on it.”
Students were expected to turn in the flash drives on May 8, Vance said.
He said the biggest difference between class instruction and distance learning is that teachers had difficulty modeling the desired outcome of assignments.
“Meeting platforms like Zoom.com have helped with face-to-face interaction, but only if the student has internet access. Cell phones have had to make up for those who do not have access,” Vance said.
Some teachers used websites to track grading while most teachers required students to turn in assignments by email or flash drive.
“Really, not a whole lot has changed in this aspect. Teachers are inputting much like they would if we were meeting at school daily,” Vance said. “Because SHS has a block schedule, we had just finished the first week of the second semester of the four classes students are enrolled in. It became very evident we would need students to complete more work in order to earn the second half credit of their enrolled classes.”
SHS teachers have weekly meetings using Zoom.com, a video conferencing website, to talk about students’ work and attendance.
To keep students engaged and to encourage creativity, SHS officials had students compete in contests, including the essay topic “a song that describes who you are,” photography, creative writing and memes about distance learning.
Students also took part in Distance Learning Spirit Week and teachers posted encouraging videos to students on social media.
“We also have a workout that is posted on the website that encourages students to be active. The school is also going to conduct cheerleading tryouts through the use of an app designed for virtual communication,” Vance said.
To provide support to students and their families, SHS also posted free online lessons on the school’s website about managing stress, navigating relationships, dealing with challenges and schooling from home.
SHS also has 90 seniors graduating this year. Vance said they’ve been honored on social media with their pictures posted to Facebook as well as by news outlets such as the Tahlequah Daily Press’ annual graduate magazine.
He added that SHS has tentatively set a commencement ceremony for the 2020 class at 6 p.m. on July 31 at the Chota Conference Center inside the Cherokee Casino Tahlequah using social distancing recommendations and pending Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
For information, visit sequoyahschools.org
or the Sequoyah Schools Facebook page.