By Angie D. Howard
Education with the possibility of a COVID-19 out break in a small town is different from what we are accustomed to at Morgan County Middle School. Are we surviving? Sure we are! We have a community full of faith based residents, a dedicated school system and 21st century students.
However, as a teacher, my heart sank when the word came that the annual eighth grade trip to Savannah would be canceled for the first time in some 23 years. This comes as a result of the COVID-19 virus. On average, the trip consists of 150-175 students, to include teachers, parents and an administrator. The trip started as a two day, overnight trip using school buses. Over time the trip evolved into a three day trip using charter buses. Students experience Georgia’s first city with a Savannah River boat ride, a guided tour of the WWII Mighty 8th Museum, Fort Jackson re-enactment, historical tour of the Railroad RoundHouse and time on the beach at Tybee Island. Each night, students and teachers spend time together riding go-carts, playing putt-putt golf, bowling and just having fun.
Such a trip takes all year to plan and implement. As the school year progresses, excitement builds and when the day comes, the good-byes begin as we leave the eighth grade hall to board the buses.” Girls on one side – boys on the other,” shouts Mrs. Stapleton. It’s a trip that kids earn the right to take. It’s the fun trip before starting high school. It’s a right of passage for all Morgan County students. It’s a time of fun and bonding between teachers and students. But this year is different because the 8th graders will not be boarding the buses on April 1 as planned because of precautionary measures.
Instead, we will sort through the virtual world of education for the first time as an entire school system. Middle school students are now learning at home instead of getting educated at 920 Pearl Street using their “take home” Chromebook device. Teachers are posting assignments in Google Classroom and connecting with students through Google Hangout and social media. Virtual learning sounds like an easy and practical way to be educated yet, it is difficult for those that don’t have access to the Internet. Therefore, teachers, counselors and administrators are working diligently to gather paper copies of assignments/activities and supplies needed for parent pickup each week. In the event parents can’t get to the school at the designated day/time, teachers are volunteering to make deliveries. Lunches are also being sent out by the cafeteria staff.
Considering we have never done this before, we all are working through this new way of teaching and learning as a school system. Such efforts are important to make sure students feel connected with the reassurance we are in this together. And, this too shall pass and will become something students share with their children and grandchildren.