In these crazy times, we at Austin Moms got the call to pool together our resources and quickly come up with some new content to help our readers. I am in the unique position in that my husband works for a large school district as the Chief in Communications. To say it’s been a crazy week for him is an understatement. I have seen him work non-stop in the past week foregoing his spring break and his weekend, as have many other administrators, and teachers all while trying to adjust to working from home with family around. I didn’t want to add to his already heavy work load, but he’s the kind of guy who jumps at a chance to help ease minds of people. He wanted to take this opportunity to hopefully put some minds at ease. Enjoy his guest blog!
-Veronica DeSantos Ryan
My sister-in-law sent us a video of my nephew, a kindergartner in New Jersey, during his first week of quarantine/social distancing school.
“This is the best Miss M!” he screamed. We heard lots of excited little background voices. He hadn’t seen his friends in several days, so this Zoom call with his teacher was a welcomed opportunity. It wasn’t even their spring break yet.
After four days of our new normal, you could tell my nephew was craving that morsel of normalcy.
A New Normal
Next week will be the end of spring break for most of the Austin area school districts. But, as our parents all know very well, it will not be a normal, March return to classrooms. The coronavirus has us extending learning into our homes from our public school classrooms (actually, the homes of our teachers). Public school teachers in Texas have done a fantastic job leveraging technology to support teaching over the past decade, facilitating learning and opening new doorways for students.
But this will be very different.
As a school district administrator, I write on behalf of my peers across the state. We want there to be countless moments like my nephew experienced. We are anxious, nervous, and hopeful after Herculean efforts to plan, prepare, and give teachers a semblance of a spring break.
We can’t just turn on distance learning.
There’s no Easy Button like those Staples commercials. It’s not going to be easy.
I spoke to a friend who works for a large university earlier this week. She was lamenting about how they are struggling to go online. I remember Blackboard being a main delivery mechanism for instruction, grading, etc. in 2005. If in 15 years, universities can’t easily go all online, we can’t expect pre-K through 12th-grade schools to do it.
We serve all kids, our charge in Texas public schools. When we plan, we do so with more than five million individual students in mind. Do you know five kids who learn the same way and need the same things, let alone five million?
We know kids will need food. School districts are doing what we can within the U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines for distribution. Districts with a high number of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch can deliver food and have more sites open. Non-profit organizations, like Hope Austin, are continuing to provide backpacks of food to supplement school breakfast and lunch.
For those wishing to help Hope Austin, they take monetary donations, which allows them to maximize their dollars and have the greatest impact. Donations are received:
- via PayPal on the HopeAustin website www.hope4austin.org
- via Venmo: HopeAustin
- via US Post: 13809 Research Blvd. Suite 810
Austin, Texas 78750
We know there will be moments when parents will be leaving kids home alone so they can work. There will be parents who are trying to work from home, dealing with their health or the health of a loved one. We will have parents lose their jobs, struggle to keep kids on task, and minimize screen time.
We know not all kids have access to technology or high-speed internet. If you or someone you know doesn’t have home internet, a few Internet Service Providers (ISP) are providing free, trial internet to homes who may not have access.
- Comcast is offering: Sixty (60) days of free Internet Essentials service, which is normally available to all qualified low-income households for $9.95/month. For new customers, applicants can simply visit www.internetessentials.com (website includes written and video chat customer service options) or by calling 1-855-846-8376 (English) or 1-855-765-6995 (Spanish).
- Spectrum is offering: Sixty (60) days free broadband and Wi-Fi access for households with K-12 and/or college students who don’t already have a Spectrum broadband subscription. No installation fees for new households. Enroll by calling 1-844-488-8395.
- Suddenlink (operated by Altice Advantage) is offering: Sixty (60) days of free internet to any household in its service area that has a K-12 and/or college student. Call 888-633-0030 or learn more at AlticeAdvantageInternet.com.
It’s not going to be easy. Help is coming.
It won’t be a magic wand, but Austin-area teachers are some of the most talented professionals and problem solvers in the world. It won’t be seven hours of captive, classroom or school time, but there will be spectacular moments.
Please go into this with your teachers as partners, remembering they have families, kids, health, and all of the things to juggle too. Remember they love kids, and that means your kid. Teaching is a calling and they need us now, more than ever.
I can’t wait to see the moments unfold. We are better together, even when we’re apart.
Resources Talking to Kids About COVID-19
- COVID-19 Guide for Parents & Caregivers: National Child Traumatic Stress Network (English, Spanish)
- National Association of School Psychologists- Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource
- Just for Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Coronavirus (NPR)
Corey Ryan married up when he met Austin Mom’s writer Veronica Ryan. He builds train tracks and runs with their three-year-old son, Oliver. He serves Leander ISD as the Chief Communications Officer. You can connect with him on Twitter @CoreyLISD or facebook.com/CoreyLISD.
Photography: Amy McLaughlin Photography’