JANESVILLE — While most area students are learning on their own time frame at home, Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton High School students have been keeping more closely to their traditional schedule.
The school is still predominantly using its block schedule during distance learning.
Most area schools have not been asking students to do their remote studies at any particular times out of concern that students might have other responsibilities due to the pandemic, such as caring for younger siblings.
At JWP they decided to try to more structured approach for most, but allowing flexibility to the seventh to 12th graders who aren’t able to log into remote versions of their classes at the usual time.
“Our high school schedule is intended to keep consistency and structure for the student and family during distance learning, yet is not in place to become a hindrance for the learner or their family,” said Principal Grant Hanson.
The secondary school is among the few that uses a block schedule. Classes go for longer periods and meet every other day. Students have four classes every day.
During distance learning, Hanson said teachers are available remotely during their scheduled classes to assist with assignments.
Some teachers, including math teacher Jessica Keenan, ask students to log in and work during class time when possible.
After they watch a video tutorial, Keenan’s students use a computer program to work on math problems. The software allows Keenan to watch students’ screens as they work and she can reach out if a student appears to be struggling. Students who aren’t able to work during class time are emailing her screenshots when they get stuck.
Other teachers, including Spanish teacher Jessica Oelke, are giving students more freedom in their schedules as long as they check in every day they have her class.
Like Keenan, Oelke has a video tutorial ready for students. Their daily assignments that follow include sending her a message about something that is happening in their lives — even if it’s just watch show they are binge-watching. (“Outer Banks” on Netflix is the most popular.)
She incorporates some of what students share into her video lessons. But primarily Oelke said she’s been striving to maintain the personal connections she has built.
“I’m still letting them know they matter to me and I hear them,” she said.
Parent Renae Huelsnitz said having a more defined schedule has been beneficial for her two children.
“I’m not saying every day is awesome. We have days that are less successful, just as teachers do in person with students,” the Janesville mom said. “But overall I think it is going well and my kids are continuing to learn.”
Her seventh-grade daughter has daily check-ins and assignments in each class and flexibility to work on other more in-depth assignments at her own pace, Huelsnitz said.
Her fifth-grader also has scheduled class activities each morning and afternoon that commences and concludes each day of learning.
“I keep learning but miss my teacher,” Emma Huelsnitz said.
Her younger daughter’s teacher also holds one-on-one video meetings to “help kids with challenging areas of study, check in on them and help keep them accountable,” Huelsnitz said.
At the secondary school, the advisory period has been replaced with one-on-one check-ins. Teachers connect with each of their advisory students weekly to monitor how students are doing in all of their classes and offer any support they can provide.
Oelke and Keenan both said they often initially were encouraging students to not be afraid to ask their other teachers for help when they are struggling with an assignment. Students have now gotten more comfortable reaching out for help, they said.