By Crystal Burns
When Trenton Special School District teachers sent their students home March 16, they did so with more questions than answers.
Governor Bill Lee released a public statement that morning urging all school districts in the state to shut down by Friday, March 20 and remain closed at least through March 31. All schools in Gibson County plan for students to return to classes Monday, April 6, but only if the mostly voluntary efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 are successful.
“The hardest thing is not having closure,” said Tricia Wozny, a teacher at Trenton Elementary School.
A small group of elementary and middle school teachers meeting at the district office March 18 admitted that they are planning for the worst and hoping for the best.
“First and foremost, we’re worried about the kids,” said Teri Lumley, TES instructional coach.
Teachers spent last week preparing take-home packets and online resources for their students to use while at home. Wozny said elementary teachers focused on skills their students can practice instead of introducing any new learning.
All of the elementary teachers present said the best thing parents and guardians can do with their students during the shutdown is read to their children and let their children read to them.
“My answer to everything is get your kid in a book,” said Rhonda Summers, a literacy leader and reading interventionist.
Summers said TES teachers pulled readers from past curriculums and packaged about eight to 10 books for children to take home with them.
“The most help you’re going to give your child is read to them and have them read to you,” Jamie Carr said.
Many TES teachers plan to use private Facebook pages set up for their students’ parents to provide video tutorials for students and their families.
Because TES has no ability to provide work online, teachers depended on parents to pick up their children’s work packets at the school Thursday and Friday.
Christy Shelton, a teacher at Trenton Rosenwald Middle School, said one of her biggest challenges during the shutdown will be finding ways to give her students a sense of community that the classroom provides. While she said TRMS teachers are lucky their students have Chromebooks and Google classrooms to help them continue learning, the relationships are still being disrupted.
Ann Cates, a reading interventionist at TRMS, said teachers there immediately fell in line and worked together to provide resources for students and their families. They also provided paper copies of take-home packets for students without internet access.
“That’s been remarkable here,” said Director of Schools Tim Haney, lauding faculty and staff for their willingness to stay at school after students had been dismissed to prepare resources and put together plans in case the shutdown lasts longer than three weeks. “I’ve not heard a single complaint.”
Shelton said teachers were able to accomplish the work sooner than expected, and Haney instructed principals to send their staffs home end of day Wednesday. Several teachers at all three schools volunteered to return Thursday and Friday to help hand out take-home packets.
Peabody High School
Peabody Instructional Coach Sonya Campbell said teachers of core classes (English, math, sciences, etc.) prepared packets for their students to be accessed on their Chromebooks or paper packets picked up at the school. She said all teachers sent their students home with their email addresses and some even provided their cell phone numbers to their students.
Campbell said most Peabody students do have access to the internet, and district and state education leaders have provided a variety of free online resources for teachers, students, and families to use during the shutdown.
Sunni Cooksey, Peabody guidance counselor, will have office hours during the shutdown to help seniors applying for scholarships.
“It’s a gut shot for the seniors,” Haney said. “They’re in mourning.”
Michele Elliott, the district supervisor for teaching and learning, said staff members are concerned for students living in less stable home environments, such as those who take care of younger siblings and/or older relatives.
“When it comes right down to it, [children] like school,” Elliott said. “It’s their safe place. They feel they’re important and they matter.”
While the district staff will be practicing social distancing in accordance with CDC guidelines, their names, email addresses, and cell phone numbers are posted at the central office. You may also email them through the district website at www.trentonssd.org.