HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - More than 19,000 students logged into school instead of walking in on Wednesday morning, as Madison County School system started their school year virtually.
There are a lot of changes to how Madison County students will learn online this time around. A key difference between this virtual learning and the virtual learning that began suddenly in March is teachers and administrators actually had time to prepare.
Ben Cole, a 5th grade science and social studies teacher at Moores Mill Intermediate School said he has spent his last few weeks trying to master the new remote learning platform.
“Throughout the summer teachers have been sharpening their tools and doing a lot of things online to better prepare their students virtually,” he said.
For Cole, he knows keeping kids engaged will be harder online than it used to be in-person.
“Trying to be as interactive as possible, try to play as many interactive, educational games as possible,” he said. “Try to keep the enthusiasm up as much as possible. That is the key to keep the students engaged.”
These first few days of school, Cole plans to focus on building a sense of community with his students as they all ease into this new learning environment.
“We’ve adopted a new platform that’s going to streamline everything that I think is going to be user-friendly for the parents and the students and that’s going to make things a lot easier,” Cole said. “I think that’s a big key, being user-friendly and it’s not intimidating to the parents because I truly believe that is one of the big things because everyone was intimidated by what we were going through.”
For parents who might be worried their child will struggle with online learning, Cole said parents just need to be positive and help their children stay positive as well.
“Believe in your child, higher education has been doing online learning for quite some time, and they believe they can succeed,” he said. “If we believe they’re going to fail, guess what, they’re going too. But I promise you, in Madison County Schools, we believe they’re going to succeed.”
The beginning to this virtual school year will not be without technical difficulties, both Cole and Moores Mill Intermediate School Principal Daniel Evans know that.
Evans said they have a help desk set up at his school that is ready for all parent questions. Madison County Spokesperson Tim Hall said that goes for every other school in the system too, if parents are having trouble, they need to call their school.
While virtual school goes on, this is giving Evans and other MCS leaders time to prepare for an eventual return to the classroom.
“We can stop and really just focus on what does that 9 weeks look like when they go back,” he said. “It’s really important for us to make sure we answer all those questions for parents, our community and put in all the safety guidelines we can possible put in.”
Evans is hoping if COVID-19 numbers continue to trend downward, they could possibly see students back here before that 9 week time frame.
But, that decision is ultimately up to Madison County Schools Superintendent Allen Perkins, who will be monitoring case counts and trends everyday and continue to evaluate a return to traditional learning as the year goes on.