While parents suddenly found themselves thrust into the role of being frontline teachers, educators in Pasco and Hillsborough counties also found themselves making a big shift when the state ordered school campuses to be closed.
The order is in effect until April 30, and as press time for The Laker/Lutz News it remained unclear whether that will be extended.
During a virtual Pasco County School Board meeting on April 7, district officials discussed how county schools made the switch to online learning.
Superintendent Kurt Browning told the audience viewing the meeting, “When this thing hit, I remember our first meeting in the superintendent’s conference room. We were all a little shell-shocked by the fact that school was going to be closed for an additional week after Spring Break.”
But, district staff stepped up, and by the time the shift was made, the district was well-poised to make the shift.
He credited Joanne Glenn and her eSchool team for the guidance and encouragement they provided to district teachers.
“Our brick-and-mortars classroom teachers, for a large part, most part, have never done virtual education before,” he said. But, once they received the training that the district’s Office of Leading and Learning and the eSchool staff put together, he said, “a lot of the angst disappeared.”
The district also distributed about 17,000 devices to families needing them, including roughly 9,000 for elementary school students and about 8,000 for secondary school students, said Assistant Superintendent Kevin Shibley. A small number of devices were still in the process of being provided for families.
Don Peace, president of the United School Employees of Pasco, complimented the district’s handling of the transition of shifting from direct to distance instruction.
“As we work in our second week of distance learning, I want to recognize our district superintendent and staff for having a Plan B in place,” Peace said.
“A special thanks goes out to Joanne Glenn and the wonderful group of eSchool employees who have willingly served as resources to those in need of help, during this transition period,” he said.
“I also want to thank you for how you are handling the thousands of ‘new teachers’ in our district, by that I mean, the parents, grandparents and guardians who have suddenly been thrust into the role of teacher. They are now the first people asked to help with questions or concerns when students struggle.
“I know in my grandson’s case, resources, tutorials and updates are going out constantly to provide information and reassurance in these situations.
“I would urge all of us to be caring and compassionate when dealing with student and parent concerns,” Peace said.
School board chairwoman Colleen Beaudoin expressed gratitude on behalf of the board for the district’s leadership and extra efforts made by teachers and staff.
“The last several weeks, everyone has been thrust into new ways of teaching and learning, and doing the work that supports that learning,” she said.
“On behalf of the board, we are very grateful to everyone who has worked so hard to make sure our students will continue to have learning opportunities and to have food in their homes.
“Thank you to the district staff who worked through the entire Spring Break getting things put into place.
“Thank you to Mrs. Glenn and the eSchool staff who have been supporting the teachers across the district, 24/7, answering questions and troubleshooting.
“Thank you to our communications team for pushing out all of the information, in multiple formats.
“Thank you to the teachers who have had to make this difficult transition to distance learning in such a short time. I have seen you collaborating and problem-solving at all hours to help our students and families.
“Thank you to the students for doing your work, even when it can be difficult to log on and while you are experiencing stressful life circumstances.
“Thank you to the parents for extending grace. We appreciate your patience as we work through some bumps in the road.
“I am confident that this district and our community will get through this and our students will continue to make academic progress,” Beaudoin said.
Assistant Superintendent Betsy Kuhn also expressed appreciation to district staff for pulling together to ensure that meals could be delivered to students who depend on school meals as their only reliable source of food.
The district delivered food to 27 sites and 16 bus stops.
“This was our second week of doing the once-a-week on Tuesdays, where we give out 10 meals to each child who comes through the line,” Kuhn said.
“The unofficial number for today is that served over 121,000. That does not include our bus stops. Those are still being calculated.
“What that means is that we served over 12,000 children in our community. That is up 8,000 served last week. And, the first week we served, March 23, we served about 5,500 students per day.
“This would not be possible without the support and very hard work of FNS (Food and Nutrition Services) and transportation, after school enrichment programs and maintenance,” Kuhn said. Kuhn also gave kudos to human resources for helping to coordinate and schedule 200 volunteers that stepped up to help.
Browning said he’s incredibly proud of district employees.
“We could not be where we are today without everyone in this district pulling together and doing what’s right for our kids,” the superintendent said.
Published April 15, 2020