FORT BENNING, Ga. – Advice for the upcoming school year: Be flexible and communicate.
Dr. Lisa B. Coleman, superintendent for Fort Benning schools, said the lessons learned from last school year’s remote instruction apply to this year’s start. Fort Benning school buildings closed March 18 because of the novel Coronavirus pandemic. Students and teachers finished the school year using computers, internet and remote learning.
“We learned a lot from the spring session that carries into this school year,” Coleman said. “Most importantly, with remote learning, we (need everyone) to ask questions, to be engaged, flexible with changes and communicate, communicate, communicate.”
Students will begin this year with remote learning Aug. 24. Elementary students can meet their teachers and see their classroom 4 to 5 p.m. Aug. 20 from during a virtual Sneak-a-Peek through Google Meet. The middle school Sneak-a-Peek is from 3:15 to 4:15 p.m. the same day. Teachers emailed their students the links for the Google Meet Aug. 18. For new students without a school email, they sent the link to their parents.
“We’re excited about the new school year,” Coleman said. “We won’t be in our brick and mortar classrooms to begin with because of the local health protection conditions.” Fort Benning currently is at HPCON C, which limits access to the installation in order to lessen the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
“However, our mission hasn’t changed. We’re still educating, engaging and empowering military-connected students to succeed in a dynamic world.”
Coleman explained how the Department of Defense Education Activity reviewed research on how to best support student learning while embedding opportunities for social engagement and emotional health for students.
“We consider screen time as well as ensure we give them multiple opportunities to interact with the teacher and each other,” Coleman continued.
“DoDEA provided professional learning to teachers on remote learning and I am confident that our teachers are well-equipped with the skills and capabilities to ensure our students are successful,” Coleman said. “Our teachers are very excited to meet their new students and welcome all of them to the new school year.
In a Department of Defense press conference Aug. 13, Tom Brady, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity, spoke about the COVID-19 mitigation measures in place. He explained the difference between remote and virtual learning in regards to DoDEA.
Both involve a computer but remote learning is geared for classes with a teacher, he said. It is classroom oriented – led by the teacher. Remote learning brings the brick and mortar classroom to the computer.
Virtual learning curriculum is designed for the computer, from start to finish, and is student driven. The example Brady used is a class that isn’t available in a brick and mortar school and is a semester long.
DoDEA has about 70,000 students enrolled its schools worldwide, with about 10,000 enrolled virtually. Brady said about 4,330 students in the United States are attending school virtually.
Brady emphasized children learn best in face-to-face classroom settings but if health conditions don’t support returning to brick and mortar schools, student, parents and staff need to be flexible. DoDEA operates 50 schools in the United States, 25 are opening brick and mortar schools and 25 are opening remotely, including Fort Benning and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, schools.