In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, schools across Nebraska closed for public health concerns. Hampton Lutheran School quickly pivoted to online instruction in the coronavirus pandemic and held classes online Tuesday, March 17 through Thursday, April 30. It was easier for HLS to transition to online classes compared to the other schools in the district because of our small class sizes and strong focus on using technology in the classroom. Our teachers are flexible, adaptable, and able to meet each of their students’ needs.
The HLS staff met with parents on the evening of March 12 and discussed the logistics of starting online classes using Zoom, a video-conferencing platform. The meeting was a great opportunity to collaborate, and the plan for online learning came together in large part because the parents were there. The teachers then met on Monday to formalize our online learning program. We opened the school on Monday so parents could pick up materials and books and check out Chromebooks for students who didn’t have a device at home. On Monday night, the teachers and families met on Zoom to work out any kinks with the platform. Online classes started Tuesday, March 17 and went through Thursday, April 30.
What Online Learning in the Coronavirus Pandemic Looks Like at HLS
Monday through Friday, each grade met with their teacher on Zoom for 55 minutes. For example, kindergarten met with Mrs. Stutzman from 8–8:55 AM, and then first grade met with Miss Pope from 9–9:55 AM. One of the biggest triumphs of using the Zoom platform was seeing the students’ smiling faces every day and knowing that they were looking forward to time together online.
The teachers met after school via Zoom every day to discuss what the classes were like and brainstorm ideas for online learning. For example, science and social studies work better with hands-on, project-based learning activities. Teachers provided more discovery-based learning for the students that they could do during the day with their parents so that class time could be devoted to other subjects.
The older grades used Google Docs to exchange work and ideas. The students typed out their work online and then just returned it to their teacher. That way, assignments could be graded right away, and students could receive feedback quickly.
You can read more about upper grade classroom activities during online learning in May’s Classroom News.
Why HLS Continued Classes Online
HLS chose to continue classes online after the schools in the area were closed for a number of reasons.
Teachers had not finished each grade’s curriculum for the school year yet, so there was still material that the students needed to learn to stay on track academically.
Holding daily classes on Zoom gave students a sense of stability and kept them connected. The pandemic is strange and maybe scary for the students. They may not fully understand what is going on in the world. School, their classmates, and teachers, are a big part of their lives. It was important for them not just to keep up with their education, but also for them to remain connected emotionally and socially with their classmates and teachers. Once children develop a routine during the school year, it becomes the new normal for our students and, for some, maybe even their safe place. Keeping in contact with students through all this maintains that normalcy, and when the kids see their teachers and their classmates, it also gives them that safe place.
Continuing education throughout the pandemic via online learning structured students’ schedules at home. This helped parents who were at home with their kids. Having school-age kids at home all day meant parents had a lot of time to fill, and providing regular Zoom classes and guided homework activities helped parents structure their kid’s weekdays and helped facilitate structured learning from home.
We didn’t try to replicate the exact schedule and structure of our in-person classes. Hampton Lutheran’s goal was to give parents enough guided activities and structure that their kids could continue working through their curriculum while also enjoying hands-on projects that they can’t typically do in the classroom.
Teachers began each session with devotion and prayer time. We met together in an online Zoom chapel service for all of our families on Friday evenings. During that chapel service, we prayed for two to three families every week. It was so important to maintain connections with our families as well as minister to the spiritual well-being of the children. The academic development and the faith development go hand in hand for us at Hampton Lutheran. Keeping our families together in community is an important aspect of who we are.
Staying Connected as a Community During the Pandemic
We will continue to connect with our students and parents online and keep them updated on announcements, events, and advice. We send out our Friday Note to parents by email using Mailchimp each week during the school year and use Mailchimp for our monthly email newsletter to the wider community (parents, community members, and church members). We also use Remind to send out texts and emails about important announcements directly to parents.
We are active on social media on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @hamptonlutheran. During the coronavirus pandemic, we’ve created the hashtag #HLSOnlineLearning so parents and teachers can share photos and cool online learning resources with each other. This is just one way we can stay connected digitally as a community, be part of each others’ lives, and see how other families are doing.
In addition to email newsletters and social media, we also maintain an active blog, where we share blog posts geared toward parents. As we’ve transitioned to online learning, we’ve been able to use our blog as a way to share ideas and tips with parents who suddenly are more involved in their child’s day-to-day schooling. For example, “7 Tips for Online Learning in Elementary School” outlines ways parents can help their child transition into online learning in the coronavirus pandemic to make the process easier for our families.
We are blessed and privileged to be able to be a part of these students’ lives even through online teaching. Today’s technology makes it easier to maintain a sense of community. And that’s what we are—a family of faith together, relying on God to provide and show us the way forward.