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Huntsville City Schools students start school year virtually

The districts first day of school was on Monday.

Posted: Aug 17, 2020 9:53 PM

The first day of school for students in Huntsville took on a unique set of issues this year.

Everyone spent the summer getting ready for virtual learning.

Huntsville City Schools said its IT department and media specialists in each school are working hard to fix any problems. One principal said all the issues her school's parents have brought up have already been addressed.

Parent Chris Anne Causey said her family faced different technology issues prior to the first day of school Monday.

"As with anything transitioning, it's been difficult. We've had laptop issues, connection issues, update issues trying to learn the platforms, and trying to get them ready for learning has been difficult," she said.

Sharon Driggers, Monte Sano Elementary School principal, said the day was spent as an orientation day and working out any technology issues.

"It has worked all weekend for days. Day and night trying to get everything straight. I think Huntsville City Schools and Monte Sano along with all the other schools in our district have done a good job of front-loading," she said.

Driggers explained that meant some families had to bring school-issued devices up to the schools to get them fixed.

"Some parents have actually had to come up to the school so she could reload their computer, but the media specialist can pretty well solve any problem the parents have," she sad.

Causey said she hopes the virtual schooling will get easier, now that the first day is out of the way, and her two children met their teachers, virtually.

"There is kind of a lot of confusion about when they needed to login, when they needed to be live. What they see afterwards, when were lesson due?," she said.

The school district said they think the first day of school was a success. Parents explained they're hoping to receive more information and guidance so they're child has a successful first nine weeks of school.

Students and parents in Huntsville got their first look at the district’s new virtual learning system.The superintendent said it’s very different than what they experienced last spring.

Causey said she was worried her two children wouldn’t learn as much online as in the traditional classroom. The superintendent said it worked hard this summer to make sure that’s not the case.

"I feel like there was a lack of challenging curriculum, challenging questions, my son who was in first grade at the time did a week or two of math homework in five minutes," she said.

Superintendent Christie Finley answered Causey’s concern.

"The relevance of our content was another main focus for our reset plan and in that it goes back to teaching those standards and high expectation," she said.

Causey said preparing her two students for the first day of school wasn't the easiest.

"We didn't find anything out about who are children's teachers were or any sort of schedule until Thursday. We didn't know how to plan. Did they need to be on at certain times? How do we need to adjust our work schedules?," Causey explained.

While students are learning from home for the first nine weeks, teachers are in the buildings. Finley said the district is still working on a back-up plan in case a teacher gets sick during the school day.

"We are adding permanent subs to each school, so instead of just having a list of substitute teachers we wanted to be very purposeful and have someone who is familiar with that building or our buildings in the next coming weeks," Finley said.

In the meantime, Causey is hopeful her second and fourth graders are back in the classroom sooner rather than later.

"I can't say enough about, positive things about our school. You can only go so far when you're stuck at a computer screen it's way easier to wander away than it would be in a classroom."

The district said it hopes to get students back in the actual classroom before the end of the first nine weeks of school but haven't released information on what coronavirus data it needs to make that happen.

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