Schools in Homewood will be back in session on Monday, Aug. 31.
To mark the occasion a parade wound it’s way through the community on Friday. Cars and trucks accompanied by police cars and a fire department ambulance left from the St. Joseph Parish parking lot. Along the route, kids came out to cheer and wave.
District 153 administrators had hoped to have students at Willow, Churchill and James Hart Schools in classes on a rotating schedule, but new COVID-19 safety protocols forced a decision to put all students on a remote learning schedule.
Thursday was a pick-up day for school supplies. At Willow School, teachers set up stations under tents on the front lawn. It gave them a chance to meet students one-to-one.
At Churchill School, it was a parade of cars. At the first stop, parents gave their student’s name. Using walkie-talkies, staff reported the information to staff in the gym where bags of supplies had been sorted for each student. By the time the parent got to the second station, the bag was being brought out to the car for delivery.
New Churchill Principal Sara Schnoor said she and her staff worked a few kinks out of the system the day before to make certain everything went smoothly.
At James Hart School, staff took the distribution of schedules and laptops into the gym after a sweltering day outside on Wednesday.
The district distributed more than 1,400 laptops for students at Hart and Churchill Schools, and made them available for students at Willow School.
Beth White, director of the technology team, said the district purchased 500 devices using $195,000 in federal CARES Act pandemic support money. Gifts of $22,000 from Foundation 153, $18,000 from CN Railway and $1,500 from Woodland Community Church in Homewood covered the purchase of 100 devices.
Every teacher in the district got several days of additional training for remote learning. Second grade teacher Ryan Gallagher appreciated the sessions as she gears up for a new school year.
“It gave us time to talk about resources with our team and what materials we were going to send home, and figure out how things are going to work,” she said.
Kathy Schaeflein, director of curriculum, said the start of school was pushed back a week because the district needed time to blend the hybrid schedule for in-school learning into the remote learning schedule.
“Kids are not expected to sit in front of the computer the whole time,” she stressed. The teacher training gave suggestions on “how (teachers) can take those breaks and get kids to collaborate.” Parents have asked the district to find ways for students to interact with each other and not just the teacher, she said.
Jessica Jursa, a mom of four District 153 students, thought teachers this spring handled remote learning well “considering the cards they were dealt with. This year I think it’ll be more organized and more structured academically for them.”
Photos by Marilyn Thomas/H-F Chronicle.