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'I'm Only Seeing The Tip Of The Iceberg:' Unalaska's Teachers Develop Home-Based Lesson Plans

Laura Kraegel

The Unalaska City School District will transition to distance education methods starting Monday. 

Earlier this month, officials closed all public and private schools in the state through at least May 1, in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.  

Superintendent John Conwell said that teachers and instructional aides have been given the option to request a flexible workday schedule that allows them to work at school, from home, or some combination of the two locations. 

"[The District's] spring break was extended one week for students only, through March 27," said Conwell at a telephonically-held school board meeting on Wednesday night. "During this extended spring break, teachers and administrators have been developing plans to transition to home-based education. The first priority has been to assemble instructional materials, such as textbooks, workbooks, and supplies, to be delivered to students' homes."

Conwell said while deliveries of educational materials have been taking place this week, the next step is to have individual teachers formulate home-based lesson plans to be implemented, begining on Monday.

"This is a gradual transition," said Conwell. "It's a totally new way of teaching and learning for our school district, but we're confident that it's going to go well and we're going to improve on it each week."

Conwell said teachers are already developing innovative solutions. To help students study for the upcoming AP Calculus test, math teacher Kyle Holloway has set up a Snapchat with his high school students, where he can send them math problems, and then work through those problems together over the application and text message.

Conwell said flexibility will be key as the administration and teachers learn to see what works best for students during this unprecedented time.

"I think I'm only seeing the tip of the iceberg with regard to teachers' innovation and creativity when it comes to providing this new model of education," said Conwell. "So we are letting our teachers have as much academic freedom as they need or require. And all we ask from our teachers is that on a daily basis they submit a summary of their efforts in providing home-based learning to our students."

In an effort to provide broadband resources, the district is collaborating with local internet service providers to broaden the school's network capacity, and has given a home internet stipend of $300 to teachers to help them transition to E-teaching.  

At their April meeting, board members are expected to discuss the Class of 2020's graduation plans, as well as give an update on school closures and implementation of home-based education.

Hope McKenney is a public radio news director, reporter, producer and host based in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
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