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At-home learners stay connected through a new resource

Kent City—When faced with the decision of choosing between face-to-face and virtual learning, all parents had some hard choices to make, said Kent City teacher Barb Weston. 

“No matter what led to the decision to keep kids home this fall, once school started many parents wondered if they made the best choice,” she said.

Weston and Velvet LaBudie are the two in-house teachers who supervise at-home students of Kent City Elementary School. 

The two educators quickly recognized the need to keep a firm connection between the school and the students learning at home. They also noticed that many families were facing numerous challenges, Principal Pam Thomas said. 

“Many families have had to balance their work lives with finding time to teach their children, and some have multiple children doing many different tasks,” she said.

And so began brainstorming for additional ways to lend a hand.

Said LaBudie: “As families began navigating this new way of learning, we wanted to continue to support our students in as many ways as we could during this unusual time. Families are balancing a lot right now, and we felt that offering in-person support would be beneficial.”

Teacher Sara Bjorkman works with virtual students who come in for extra help

The Plan

The resource room opened on Oct. 27. Students from families who had chosen virtual education were able to sign up for a slot to take their online work into the large, makeshift classroom within a newly added multipurpose room.

Students use a designated entrance to attend either from 8:30-11:00 a.m. or 12:00-2:30 p.m., times set so as to not align with regular building arrival and dismissal times. They are distanced around the room, where they continue their online program in a quiet place to learn, Thomas said, with coaching from a certified teacher as needed.

Additionally, students, attending a resource session either in morning or afternoon, are given a hot lunch and have the opportunity for some face-to-face time with their online teachers – Weston and LaBudie.

“Watching the students walking in that first day with their backpacks and Chromebooks was so very heartwarming,” LaBudie said. “Most students shared that they were excited to come to school;” 

So far, feedback has been positive. 

“I chose to place my children in the in person room for extra support in the subjects that they need the most help in,” said parent Laura Cook, who has two children enrolled in the virtual resource room program. “Both complete math and reading when they are attending the in-person support. Keeping the kids engaged with online learning can be difficult; it is nice to have this additional support.” 

Weston said that the focus is on what students need as virtual learning continues to be necessary for some. 

“We are extending flexibility and resources so that learning can continue during this pandemic,” she said. “Opening this in-school support room for our virtual learners is one more opportunity to stay connected.”

The new multipurpose room provides plenty of space for extra resource time for its virtual student learners
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Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.

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