Education in Stephenville adjusts due to the coronavirus
By Renee Burns
Universities and independent school districts all over the state of Texas have extended their spring breaks and moved to alternative learning platforms due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Many colleges, including Tarleton State University, extended their spring break by a week so they could prepare to move all classes online. Tarleton originally declared this a precautionary measure with hope it would expire on April 10, while others like the University of North Texas stated that students would finish the rest of their semester online.
These dates were then re-evaluated by Tarleton President James Hurley on March as the situation with COVID-19 progressed and now all classes are online for the duration of the spring semester.
Classes that were designed to be in-person but are now online are causing students to have to adjust in major ways.
“It’s definitely a difficult adjustment. Some classes just aren’t meant to be taught online, so everyone has to adjust,” Brian Janssen, senior accounting major, said.
Professors have had to make all learning materials accessible online as well as tests, lectures and homework. Some class materials can be exported to a flash drive or something similar. This enables students without internet access to download assignments and work on them at home.
“Currently it is very challenging to be able to teach online, just because it’s not the norm for many of us. With everything being online now, I’m not able to give that one on one time as easily anymore. Sure, I still have email and I can create a video of myself doing the labs but it’s just a lot more of a hassle,” Logan Soluri, a graduate assistant for the college of science and technologies said. “A lot of the professors I work closely with are not used to this either. I know most of them prefer the in-person classes for the same reasons I do. We have all discussed different ideas such as recording our lectures, posting additional YouTube videos to help and even doing Zoom classroom settings. It’s a learning curve for myself and all the professors I work with, but we are up for the challenge and doing everything we can in order to provide a learning experience just as good as an in-person one.”
Tarleton will also be allowing students to finish the semester on a pass/fail basis if they so choose. The university has also created several resources students can seek out if they need help with online classes or life in general right now.
Tarleton has only a few public areas on campus still open to students. The university chose to err on the side of caution and close several computer labs as well as common areas like the dining hall and they even cancelled events on campus, including graduation.
Since dining on campus is the only option available for many students, Tarleton is offering a meal delivery service for those who remain on campus.
According to an email sent out by Hurley on April 1, Tarleton has its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on campus. For now, Hurley assures students this hasn’t changed what is available on campus and they are taking extra care to sanitize regularly.
Many school districts were hoping to reopen in April, but in a press briefing on March 31, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered all schools to remain closed until May 4. Parents all over the state are being faced with a new challenge as they try to balance their work and their new role as teachers.
Many school districts have implemented online classrooms and alternative options for remote instruction. Parents are currently homeschooling their children with the help of online resources given to them by the school district.
“Homeschooling the kids is a little more difficult while working from home because you constantly have the kids in your work area asking questions or having issues with technology. I am one who enjoys going to the office, so staying home to work plus adding kids and trying to help them get through this is a little struggle some days,” Laura Abshire, mother of two kids that go to Stephenville ISD, said. “I know it’s necessary, but two things I have taken from this is I could not home school full-time nor could I be a teacher and I admire these two types of people so much more now.”
In the case of Stephenville ISD, some supplemental paper packets are available to those who are struggling with the online format.
One of the major concerns surrounding the initial closings was the timing of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness test. In response to several letters sent by state representatives, Gov. Abbott released a statement on March 16 that waived STAAR testing requirements for this school year.
According to the press release posted by the Texas Education Agency, “Governor Abbott is working closely with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to ensure that schools continue to deliver instruction to students while students are absent or while schools are closed due to COVID-19.”
Visit the Texas Department of State Health Services at https://www.dshs.texas.gov/coronavirus/ to find COVID-19 updates in the state of Texas.
Check Tarleton’s website for regular updates on the university’s decisions regarding COVID-19.