Christy Pitney has three sons who attend Rockwood schools: two in elementary school and one in middle school.
As the Rockwood School District Alternative Learning Plan
(ALP) kicks in, she is noticing a sense of autonomy growing in her sons. They all have their own schedules, their own timetables for getting work done and their own Chromebooks on which to do it.
"I feel like I have three little businessmen in the house," Pitney said. "They all have meetings scattered all throughout the day. All three of my kids have really benefited from the extra independence and control over their learning that this has given them. It's been a really neat thing to see. The communication from the teachers has been excellent: very encouraging, supportive, understanding that different families have different needs and schedules."
Rockwood families are starting to settle into routines with the remote-learning ALP, which the district enacted to continue educating students during school closures due to coronavirus (COVID-19). They are starting to learn what teachers expect out of students and what structure each virtual classroom will take as far as mandatory meetings, assignment timelines and communication from teachers.
"I'm very impressed with Rockwood and the teachers. They've been amazing," said Jill O'Dell, a parent of three Rockwood students. "They've moved mountains to make this happen. I know this is not what they thought they would ever do as teachers, and this clearly isn't what the kids ever thought. The fact that they've pulled it all together, I know the teachers have put in so much effort and loved our kids."
O'Dell has one child each in elementary, middle and high school. She said teachers at all three levels are prioritizing maintaining connections with their students. While the social-emotional piece is more pronounced for her elementary student, her middle and high school students' teachers have also been wary of assigning an overwhelming amount of work in the ALP early going.
Natalie Fletcher, a Rockwood Early Childhood
Special Education teacher who is also a mother of three Rockwood students, said she has been cognizant of working with parents to determine what schedules work best for them. She knows the difficulties of juggling so many responsibilities from personal experience.
"I had to make email folders for my son's learning, my daughter's learning, my other daughter's learning, my teaching," Fletcher said. "I know some parents are trying to balance it all, everybody trying to be on the Zoom calls they need to be on, doing curriculum for everybody. Part of that is the teacher in me, thinking I have to get to everything. We're telling them to have grace for themselves."
Hailey, a Rockwood fifth-grader, said her teacher walked the class through the website with all their assignments and set some structure for the weeks ahead on their first Zoom meeting.
She enjoys the independence she has when it comes to prioritizing assignments, especially when it comes with a Chromebook. The district made Chromebooks available to every elementary school student at the beginning of the ALP.
"I'm excited for next year at middle school, but I know there are going to be a lot of changes," Hailey said. "I like this because I know you do have a lot more freedom in middle school. This is kind of getting a sneak peek of that. I do really like having a Chromebook and getting to do it on my own time, and I really like that it's a two-way connection with the teacher."
On their first day of the ALP, Hailey and her classmates sang "Happy Birthday" live on Zoom to a fellow student who is not able to have a birthday party due to social distancing.
While the curriculum is important, the personal touches – such as the lip sync video
the staff at Rockwood Valley Middle
produced – have been crucial to the early success of the ALP.
"The kids all feel like their teachers are checking up on them, in a good way. They're making sure they were all OK," Pitney said. "The message came through loud and clear that we really are all in this together, and Rockwood has our back as students, parents and the community. That was just so heartwarming and encouraging."