District switches for safety

Students, staff across district transition to online learning


Valerie Benzinger

Schools in the district close for the remainder of the year and at-home learning continues.

In mid-March, district superintendent Dr. Kevin Rogers, along with other superintendents across Denton County, made the decision to temporarily close down schools’ in-person operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered all schools to shut down for the remainder of the school year in the interest of safety.

“[Our priority] is always our students and our LISD family,” Board of Trustees president Katherine Sells said. “The LISD family extends beyond the students, parents and staff. It goes into the nonprofits we work with and the mentors in our schools. It’s in our community; all 127 square miles. At the end of the day, it’s always about our students. Where we can support our staff and enhance learning for our students, that’s where our focus is.”

The widespread movement to flatten the curve has focused on minimizing the damage done by the virus as much as possible and has proven to be successful when done correctly. Senior Erick Nguyen believes shutting down in-person classes was the best decision to be made in response to the COVID-19 outbreak because it keeps students, teachers and families safe.

“While our age group is the lowest for contracting the coronavirus, we are not immune from it,” Nguyen said. “It’s also important to consider that we can spread the virus to our loved ones if we are infected. [The] social distancing movement was done for a reason, and that reason is to prevent the spread of coronavirus as much as possible.”

With schools being closed, online learning procedures were put into place. Students and teachers communicate largely through Canvas and WebEx to complete weekly assignments and fulfill learning criteria. Through the transition from in-person classes to at-home learning, students have found difficulty in motivating themselves to put forth the same effort as before.

I still care about the AP exams coming up, but without going to school every day, it becomes more difficult to focus on studying since I have so many distractions at home,” Nguyen said. “It’s also a lot more difficult to care about my elective classes since there is no goal to work toward. When this last bit of the school year is pass or fail, all this homework seems like busy work.”

In addition to students’ issues with pushing themselves in the classrooms, staff members across the district have had to adapt to the new social distancing protocols. The pandemic has caused a major shift in what daily life looks like for people across the nation; teachers are no exception to that rule.

“A lot of teachers need that connection and relationship with students and the other teachers,” Sells said. “The teaching teams and staff build each other up. We work together. We’re very much an organization of teams. When you take that physical element of it out, you have to change your mindset. We’ve had board meetings online. Even though there are hiccups, it’s gone well. The work is still being done, it’s just done in a different way.”

Throughout the pandemic, families who don’t have access to meals at home or Wi-Fi in their neighborhoods have received assistance from district programs. These relief programs are done to make at-home learning an easier process for everyone in the district.

We know the best thing for the communities we serve is to work in conjunction with other districts, towns, cities and counties,” Rogers said. “Our staff members are going above and beyond to help ensure the mental and physical health of our students and families, and I think our response to this pandemic has been incredible. I am grateful for the way our learning community has responded.”

Despite the negative impacts spread by coronavirus across the world, the district looks to find positives in such a bleak time. The challenges brought by distance learning are overcome every day. During this time, students and staff hope to see the strength in technology and show how powerfully connected people can be during times of chaos.

We believe our students and our staff are really stepping up and doing a great job,” Sells said. “I hope through this process, we’re going to learn how strong we really are. How strong our teachers are as far as providing the needs of our students when they’re not in the same room. Some of our students are going to gain self-awareness of the strength of their abilities because they’re having to do things a little bit differently. They’re relying on themselves a bit more at home to be disciplined in their learning.”