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SHS principal recaps first week of distance learning; pleased with first full week

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SYLACAUGA, Ala. – A week ago today Sylacauga City Schools students stepped into a new reality – distance learning.

Students have been placed in a virtual classroom, Google Classroom, with their teachers and peers to finish out the school year. Luckily for SHS students, the tool has been used in the school district for the last three years as the main digital learning platform, allowing for some sense of normalcy as students interact and learn virtually.

“This has been surreal for a high school to go into a normal spring where it’s busy all the time and then come to a grinding halt,” said SHS principal Chad Murphy. “We’ve had practice doing this in the past, and that’s allowed students to get used to going there. It has not been as in depth as what we are doing now, but at least gave us an opportunity to get our feet wet.”

Many have asked why SHS did not follow suit with many schools across the state and consider seniors with a passing average as graduated. The answer, not all schedules are created equal. Daily life at SHS features block schedule, meaning four classes per day for the first semester, and then four classes per day the following semester to wrap up the school year. Murphy explained schools that concluded their academic year early were most likely on a seven period, year-round class schedule in which schools believed their students completed and grasped enough of the concepts to move forward. While year-round students had roughly 75% of the coursework complete in key subjects, students on block schedules completed some courses in full during the fall semester, but had not made enough progress in spring semester courses.

Although the schedule presented a different situation for SHS students than some across the state, Murphy explained the school’s use of technology will make sure students are gaining the skills they need to move forward. “Our technology infrastructure and our tools at the high school level afford us more luxury than many districts. Learning had to continue, and I think we made the right choice as a district to move forward and keep leaning.”

According to Murphy there are challenges, and the district will do what it needs to to ensure students are successful. “We have some concerns, but we have those concerns every year for students, especially when you go to summer and take two months off. That’s one reason I am glad we decided to continue learning and building skills and knowledge.”

What will happen if a student does slip slightly during distance learning? Murphy said SHS and its faculty will plan ways to assess our students when they come back to see where they are. That way teachers can make accommodations to fill in those areas where there could have been missed learning.

The closure of schools also comes with the postponement of events students look forward to every year – prom and graduation. SHS is actively looking for ways to ensure those events happen for its students.


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