Brevard K-12 schools are some of many that have had to change and adapt so students can continue attending school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tania Pippin, a third grade teacher at Covenant Christian School in Palm Bay said that about 90 percent of its students are attending in person classes and 10 percent are attending online.
Covenant Christian’s current policy requires that if several students in one class test positive, the entire class will go online until students receive negative tests and are given the all-clear to return safely to in-person instruction.
Pippin said that online learning can be especially difficult for elementary age students, who may find it difficult to sit still and pay full attention to a computer screen.
“But on the other hand, I have a student who has excelled with his work because his grandfather lives with his family, and they have been working on the homework assignments together,” Pippin said. “It’s a very sweet and encouraging thing to see them working it together.”
Covenant Christian has changed its school day hours from 8:00 a.m. through 3:15 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m., giving the students more recess time outside. Students are required to wear masks at recess, in line with the school’s policy that masks must be worn at all times other than eating.
The extra recess allows teachers to give extra attention and assistance to students who are attending virtually and may need additional help with work.
Olivia Zajac is a mother with two children, a seventh and a fifth grader, attending online classes at Covenant Christian.
“At first in the winter it was difficult for them to transition back to the feeling that they were in school. They still had that summer frame of mind,” Zajac said. “But the slower pace of online seems to have decreased some of their anxiety, they have less peer conflicts, and more family time.”
Virtual learning has also had some positive effects on school events at Covenant Christian, such as grandparents day.
Grandparents day, normally held in person, was held virtually this year. Students’ grandparents, whether located in other states or nearby, were able to safely view art and other student work in an online format.
“That was really special,” Pippin said. “No grandparent got left out because of distance.”
Viera Charter School has also implemented COVID-19 safety measures once in person classes started again in the fall.
“Their usual activities have been changed so that the children aren’t in contact with each other,” Melissa Asafo-Agyei, whose children are a second grader and a first grader attending Viera Charter, said. “They play pool noodle tag, instead of regular tag, flag football, and their cafeteria seats have three-way plexiglass dividers.”
Viera Charter school’s COVID-19 return plan, found on its website, details further preventative measures such as limiting the number of parent volunteers, screening staff for symptoms regularly and modifying emergency protocols with respect to social distancing.
After the new circumstances and sudden shift to online classes teachers were faced with in spring of 2020, Pippin is glad things are beginning to find their rhythm again.
“It was so good to see the kids when they started to trickle back into in person classes,” Pippin said. “It really is so different teaching online, and it was really wonderful to have them back and to be able to see them again.”