Rural schools struggle with road ahead in era of coronavirus

  • By Kirk Siegler/NPR

At the Bruneau-Grandview School District in rural southern Idaho, a couple dozen teachers are crowded into the small library.

They’re doing a refresher training for online teaching. In person-classes are scheduled to begin Monday, but with coronavirus cases continuing to rise in Idaho and other states, it’s an open question for how long.

Superintendent Ryan Cantrell, who’s helping lead the Google Classroom training, is advising his staff that last-minute decisions will be the unfortunate normal this upcoming school year. Parents have the option of sending their kids to school this week, or staying fully online or some combination of both.

A recent survey indicated that about three-quarters of the district’s families were comfortable sending their kids back to school this fall.

When the district abruptly went to online-only last Spring, Cantrell says some students dropped off the map, learning suffered, especially in outlying areas where there’s little or no Internet.

“There’s a general consensus of let’s get moving,” Cantrell says. “Let’s get the kids back in here so that we can find out where they’re at, how we can help them.”

Those kids who do return can expect some changes. Desks will be spaced apart in classrooms and classes are being staggered to minimize the number of students in the hall at one time. The school day will also be shortened to allow for more online teaching.

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