We are asking how COVID-19 is impacting rural communities. Read below for a perspective from Jennifer Geir and Candace Smith of Bayard, NE, about how they got students connected in their district. You can share your perspective (or nominate an outstanding teacher!) here: http://bit.ly/iaartcovid
During the recent COVID-19 school closure, we have attempted to tackle some of the connectivity challenges in our area so that our students can still receive educational services. Shortly before the announcement that school would be closed temporarily, our superintendent, Travis Miller, arranged a Zoom training for all staff so that they would be prepared to connect with students online in the event of a closure.
Bayard Public Schools has a 1-1 mobile device program for grades 9-12. In addition we already had several carts of devices for use for grades K-8, we purchased an additional 20 devices to replace aging/glitchy devices. We distributed those devices so every student grade K-12 had a mobile device to begin our alternate learning program. Distribution was carried out in conjunction with our meal program and remaining devices delivered to families’ doors.
We have a fair number of students who do not have internet services. After initially referring families to Spectrum and Allo providers that were offering free internet services to students, we recognized that many of our rural families were not eligible for those services. After working closely with Viaero Wireless, we purchased 25 devices that we are now using as hotspots. We were able to purchase these through a program called TigerCARE that has a fund for meeting student needs in our school. Since then, students have been able to continue learning and interacting with their classmates and teachers.
We still have a few families who are unable to connect consistently due to the rural areas where they live. Those families are working closely with teachers to continue the learning process but on a more low tech level. This includes paper assignments being mailed, turning in assignments when internet is available, and excellent communication between families and teachers using the Remind app system.