Schools turn to distance learning amid pandemic

BY CHAD HUNTER
Reporter
04/14/2020 10:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The doors of Sequoyah High School, seen April 8, are closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, but students began distance learning April 6. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Schools across the state have shifted to distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year per an order from the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

“I know it’s been a crazy time trying to figure out this distance learning,” Sequoyah High School instructor Tiffany Natividad told students via Facebook. “We’ve had a lot of hiccups. But don’t worry about it. We will get through it together. The best advice I can give you is to try and still keep somewhat of a routine through this. Set a schedule every day. It will get easier.”

Based on a previous statewide OSDE mandate, Sequoyah Schools initially planned to close for two weeks following spring break to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. However, on March 25 as the number of coronavirus cases rose, the OSDE required school districts to provide distance learning for the remainder of the school year, beginning April 6.

“Distance learning plans will look different from district to district,” State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said. “Many districts have used online tools for some time and will be able to hit the ground running. Others have little connectivity and communities with little or no access to computer technology.”

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said it was critical that language preservation efforts continue, “especially among Cherokee kids.”

“That’s why our Cherokee immersion (charter) school will begin distance learning,” he said on April 8. “This week, we’re getting all students’ technology devices upgraded, making sure they have the Cherokee syllabary so they can watch their teachers do daily lessons from their living rooms.”

The SHS distance learning plan is available at sequoyahschools.org. It explains how students are expected to communicate with teachers and turn in assignments online.

“It’s got all kinds of valuable information on the next few weeks of this distance learning endeavor,” SHS Principal Jolyn Choate told students via Facebook. In a letter to students, she added that teachers “have worked very hard to ensure that you are good to go with lessons for the upcoming weeks. We are trying to make this as stress free as possible.”

Students log their attendance online. Those without internet access are required to contact their teachers.

“A storage device or flash drive with assignments will be provided to students without access to the internet,” the school’s plan states. “These devices must be returned with completed work.”

According to the state, each school district will adopt a plan that establishes criteria for seniors to graduate. However, Choate noted that “at this time, prom has been cancelled, and seniors, we are no longer looking at May 15 as a graduation ceremony.”

According to the school, “every attempt will be made” to hold a graduation ceremony.

“Graduation could be postponed to a later date, possibly July,” the school notes under the “major events” section of its distance learning plan. “Depending on conditions and recommendations from the state and (U.S. Centers for Disease Control), it may be necessary to take alternative measures to ensure that we recognize students. We are currently working on alternative measures to recognize students in the event that we remain restricted.”

Natividad told SHS seniors to “keep your heads up high.”

“We will still find a way to honor and celebrate your achievements,” she added.

Awards ceremonies and summer driver’s education classes planned at SHS will not take place. But the school is adapting in other ways by developing a virtual cheerleading tryout process and offering “grab and go” meals throughout the week free of charge for students and children ages 18 and under until June 25.
About the Author
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late  ...
chad-hunter@cherokee.org • 918-453-5269
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late ...

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