Virtual learning provides routine for military children during COVID-19 Published May 18, 2020 By 2nd Lt. Amber R. Kelly-Herard 15th Wing Public Affairs JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- Many Hawaii Department of Education children left their schools March 13 in preparation for Spring Break. Little did they know that would be the last time they would be in their classrooms together. On April 17, HIDOE announced schools would remain closed for the 2019-2020 school year in accordance with social distancing guidelines to be stop the spread of COVID-19. In response, schools created virtual classrooms with very little notice. “We mobilized our faculty and staff to support the use of internet-based communication between teachers, students, and families,” said Melissa Goo, Mokulele principal. Schools developed online curriculums and are delivering hard copies of instructional materials. Additionally, the schools are using emails, text messaging, phone calls and communication applications to maintain a connection between the families and the school. “Our teachers have done an amazing job to adapt to the new circumstances which include new and innovative ways to carry out traditional teaching online,” said Corey Allen, Nimitz Elementary School vice principal. “Many of them use applications that allow assignments to be turned in online, while some have gone as far as conducting ‘read-alouds’ and discussions on virtual platforms.” “Even our P.E. teacher, librarian, STEM teacher, and music teacher are providing weekly assignments for the students to follow at home,” added Allen. “While it has been a trying time, it has provided teachers new opportunities to practice their craft.” Ayianna Merkerson, age 7, who attends Nimitz Elementary, is one of many children who are benefitting from a virtual classroom. “I like that I get to see my friends on the computer since I don’t get to see them in class,” she said. “I like playing the learning games on my iPad. I also like that I get to do school work with my parents.” The COVID-19 pandemic can be stressful for everyone, even if they are not physically affected by the disease. According to the Center for Disease Control, children notice how their parents react and can respond with a change in behavior. “In times of uncertainty and stress, children pick up on the energy around them,” said Goo. “They knew something was going on, well before the shelter-in-place was enacted by our governor. It is important to assure them that everything is going to be okay and that the adults in their lives are going to help and protect them.” “One of the most important things to teach a child is the significance of routine,” added Allen. “Routine provides stability, and stability is what allows learning.” To help students establish a routine, Nimitz Elementary School developed choice boards on their COVID-19 website, so students could follow a schedule that was flexible to their home needs. The student population at Mokulele Elementary School is 93 percent military and Nimitz Elementary is 99 percent military. While schools may be closed, one or both parents may still be going in to work or are working from home. “Our students also have the challenge of making new friends whenever they move,” said Goo. “School is the primary place that they develop these relationships so without school being in session, they have lost a significant part of their support system. This is why face-to-face sessions with teachers and classmates are especially important.” Military Family and Life Consultants are also making concerted efforts to provide parents with resources to help with the stress. Parents in adopted teacher roles are finding a new sense of appreciation for teachers and school staffs. “Our teachers have reported how thankful parents have been for what teachers provided prior to this moment,” said Allen. “In many cases, some parents find it difficult to see how a teacher was able to get a child to do a simple assignment, much less get 20 to 30 students to do an assignment at the same time.” A recent survey of Nimitz Elementary School teachers found roughly 93 percent of students are continuing to do some work in the distance-learning environment—something the teachers do not take lightly. “I would like to thank the families for working so hard to support their students,” said Goo. They have been asked to take on multiple roles of parent, cheerleader, teacher, counselor, and mentor.” Both schools want to remind students they are still available for them and can’t wait to see them back in school when it is safe again. “Our students are showing resilience and problem-solving skills every day,” said Goo. “They are developing new ways to communicate with each other and stay connected. They are learning how to work together using new types of technology.” “They are staying optimistic in a world of uncertainty and constant change,” Goo added.