By Scott Bleile

This week starts a new era in schools as they start remote e-learning. Area schools have been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak. They are scheduled to return on May 18. Since the closure, the Delaware Department of Education along with area schools have been working on plans for students to communicate with their teachers using a computer. This is a huge task undertaken by teachers and school administrators to come up with plans to keep the students connected.

“Our biggest concern is staying in contact with our parents and students,” said Seaford Superintendent Dr. Corey Miklus. “This is not just about students learning. This is also about how we can help during this trying time. Our food trucks are out supplying food to our students and we want to make sure families are getting the services they need. If the families feel comfortable about their situation, then we are doing our job.”

Central Elementary teachers are using remote learning to stay in contact with their students during the school closure due to the coronavirus outbreak. Pictured are some of the Central teachers using Zoom Video Conferencing for a meeting with school administrators. Submitted photo

Woodbridge’s new food truck has also been out serving the students of the district. “Our truck came at the right time and our teachers and staff have been working very hard to make everything work,” said Woodbridge Superintendent Heath Chasanov. “We want to be a resource for our students and parents. The teacher has put together packets to hand out with the food, along with making sure they get to the homes of the students. I am hopeful we can return to school, so our seniors can have some sort of closure for their final year.”

Both superintendents expressed concerns that some students may not be getting the information needed. “If you have not heard from the school your student attends please contact your school and leave a message. Someone will return your call and make sure you get the information,” both commented.

Both Seaford and Woodbridge are entering uncharted ground according to administrators and teachers. Trying to connect with students is the toughest part. “Communication is the key for this to work,” said Dr. Sharon DiGirolamo. “We are trying to make sure they have internet, the devices they need to do the work. This is a big struggle we deal with. We are on a big learning curve right now. Our teachers are using remote learning for the first time. Many are using a program called Zoom to contact students. This program allows several teachers to be online with their students at the same time.”

Zoom Video Communications is an American remote conferencing services company headquartered in San Jose, California. It provides a remote conferencing service that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration. There are several new video-conferencing programs teachers use to communicate with their students along with Zoom; teachers also use Google-Meet or WebX Video.

 “We are communicating using a variety of methods based on the family need,” explained Central Elementary principal Becky Neubert. “We communicate by phone, ClassDojo, Schoology, Zoom, written letters home, and more ways with and without technology, we try and stay in touch with our students. We are at the very beginning stages and this is a huge learning curve for many educators, parents, and students. However, we have been fortunate enough to have some staff, parents, and students who gave it a whirl over the last couple of weeks just to see how it could work. We will continue working with what will be normal for a while. I believe our school and district are trying to meet the needs of the community the best way we can. The most difficult part is when students do not have the opportunity to be connected. Not because they don’t have a laptop or phone, but more times because they can’t get service where they live. The students are enjoying the human connection to their teacher and classmates although from a distance. It has served all of us well just to make sure everyone is ok.”

Woodbridge Early Childhood Education Center’s principal Kim Mitchell stated, “We were kind of one step ahead of the planning. On March 13, the Friday before the shutdown we had a PD day which teachers started working on the educational packets. We were planning for what we thought would be a couple of weeks, but it has turned into a longer time. Our teachers are using Zoom where they can and communicating with parents by phone. Dane Sears and I put out updates to the parents each week.”

Laura Amidon is a teacher at Central Elementary who has been using Zoom to contact her students.

“I am using Zoom meetings to connect with the students so they can actually talk to me and hear me talking to them,” said Amidon. “This will also be the platform I will use to conduct my online teaching. I also am connecting with them via ClassDojo. This allows me to talk to their parents and them. I have also recorded videos of me talking to the students or reading aloud to the students and posted it on ClassDojo to get information to the students and parents. I do feel this will help students stay connected with teachers and the school. Of course, being in school would be way better but since this is the situation we are facing right now, ClassDojo and Zoom are helping us to stay connected.

“We are also calling families and yesterday I delivered learning materials to each of my students and got to visit each student and family. The students and their parents become part of our Central family. We care a lot about them and only want the best for them.”

According to both schools, contact the schools with any questions or to get in touch with any of the administrators or teachers.