By Justin Seward
Cherry Coulee Christian Academy has 46 students in Grades’ K-to-12 and due to the intuitive staff, the school already had learning packages out to the students within two days of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown back in mid-March.
“We started out photocopying packages for the students for parents to pick up each week,” said Mike Daniels, CCCA’s principal.
“I think the challenge that a lot of schools were having is kind of hit-and- miss as far as what technology and what system to even use to keep in contact with their students.
“We thought well all of our parents we know have WhatsApp. So we were able to contact all of our parents to verify that they all have WhatsApp. That’s how all of our teachers started communicating with all the parents and all the kids.”
WhatsApp is a messaging app that people can text, chat and share various types of media on including video and voice messages.
Daniels says CCCA did not have to worry whether the students had a computer or not.
“Instead of sending work back, the students would take pictures of their work and send it back through WhatsApp,” he said.
Teachers formed groups on WhatsApp with their students and they gave out their app contact so students can contact them.
“The parents were quite pleased,” said Daniels, “And it wasn’t something difficult for the students to learn because they’ve used something like that, some kind of social media.”
CCCA purchased chromebooks a couple years ago and there were enough to loan out to students who did not have access to a computer or two to three other students in the household were on a device.
“We used the platform, Schoology, and for the junior high and high school, (we) were able to move all their work online, ”said Daniels.
“The elementary continued to make weekly packages. Parents would pick them up each Friday.”
Daniels said the feedback on the teaching methods has been positive and students are happy for the distraction.
However, parents have been feeling the pressure at home, teaching.
“You have some parents, that they’re feeling that they’re not teachers and it’s been a struggle, he said.
“But I think you’ve been getting that everywhere. My teachers, they would send out instructional videos and good instructions to help the students and there seem to be good communication going back and forth.”
Daniels runs into people on the street and he has heard from them that being a teacher at this time must be pretty easy, which in his view is not the case.
“I tell them actually it’s a lot harder in a lot ways because when you’re teaching kids in class, you can talk to them directly and you can see where they’re having troubles and challenges,” said Daniels.
“You can interact with them and any instructions and directions that you have to give them, you give them right there in class. Whereas now, it was like every day it was like preparing for a substitute teacher. For every class you have to write out instructions and make videos.
Meanwhile, the school will celebrate their one graduate, Jake Bergen, and details have yet to be decided as to how to recognize that student.
“We definitely want to do something special for them,” he said.