New eLearning Wednesdays leaves schools, parents struggling to find the way

All Moore County students will learn remotely on Wednesdays beginning August 26 to help teachers catch up and students to be better prepared should COVID force school closures. {File Photo}

It’s a move Moore County Director of Schools Chad Moorehead said that has two intended purposes. One, it’s meant to give teachers a mid week opportunity to catch up from the demands of dual teaching both in person and online. Two, as active case counts rise in Moore County, eLearning Wednesdays are meant to get students prepared should COVID force school closures.

“This school year has been and will continue to be a challenge for everyone involved,” said Director Moorehead. “We ask for patience and understanding as we make decisions that we feel will be most beneficial for our teachers and students. The school board has voted to make school attendance as flexible as possible and has preserved parent choice with each vote. We will all have to work together to make this year successful.”

Things change quickly this school year

Moore County Schools aren’t the only school system forced to rapidly evolve this school year. Tullahoma City Schools welcomed student back on July 29. Nine days later on August 7, the system announced it would be moving to a hybrid schedule because the active cases threshold in Coffee County exceeded their school closing trigger of 0.5 percent.

Today, Franklin County School announced a similar measure to eLearning Wednesday’s stating that “due to the volume of virtual learners and the added cleaning burden due to COVID 19, each Friday will be designated a virtual/distance learning day for all students.”

On August 11, the Moore County School Board voted to revise their own school closing trigger to based on individual school absenteeism rates rather than the amount of community spread. (Read our full coverage of that meeting here.)

Yesterday via their social media page, Moore County Schools announced that beginning Wednesday, August 26 all students at Lynchburg Elementary, Moore County Middle School, and Moore County High School would become remote learners for that single day and would not report for in-person learning.

Teachers, students, and parent feel the strain

According to Tennessee state law, all students must complete 180 days of instruction to matriculate and each instructional day must a minimum of 6.5 hours. From the beginning, the Moore County Board of Education voted to start the school year under a hybrid plan that allowed parents to choose either in person or distance learning depending on their individual situation.

According to Director Moorehead, around 20 percent of students now learn remotely. This means teachers give classroom instruction all day and then go home to help remote learners at night.

One Moore County teacher we talked to said her normal 40-60 hour work week in a normal school year has ballooned to closer to 90 hours.

“I have always worked hard to prepare lessons that are engaging, fun, and standards based,” they said. “Now I work 90 hours a week and my lessons are lackluster at best. I also don’t have the energy to deliver power-packed lessons that I did last year. Most of my time is spent corresponding with remote students and their parents. I give 70 percent of my time to 18 percent of my students.”

Another problem is that remote learning can lead to teachers feeling as if they are on call 24/7.

“We get emails around the clock,” one Moore County teacher said. “I feel obligated to answer emails whenever possible, but this 24/7 schedule is not sustainable. I finally had to turn off notifications on my phone so that I could get at least a couple hours of sleep. By the end of the week, sleep deprivation has taken its toll, and just speaking a sentence in front of a classroom of students is challenging.”

It’s this potential teacher burnout that Director Moorehead says he’s trying to avoid with eLearning Wednesdays.

“We are blessed in Moore County to have outstanding teachers that truly care about all of our children and we must take care of our teachers, so they can take care of our students,” Director Moorehead added. “The plan is to give the teachers these five days, spread over five weeks to make adjustments, and develop a system to deliver content to students that are in the building and those that have chosen not to be.”

It takes a village to raise a child

Director Moorehead posted the eLearning Wednesday notice yesterday around 4:30 p.m. Understandably, it left some parents frustrated with the sudden change. By the early evening, local moms and other community members were already offering to help on social media.

“I would love to offer my home and help to a couple of children in need of care and assistance during e-learning Wednesdays, if you need help feel free to message me. I’m grateful to work mostly from home,” said one local on social media.

Another local with a “smart teenage daughter and fiber Internet” also offered to help.

In the end Director Moorehead as well as all the teachers we spoke to expressed a sincere desire to help every child in our school system work their way through these unprecedented times.

“There is no “right” answer anymore,” one teacher said. “It’s just the right now answer.” •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Lynchburg. We cover Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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