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CPS faces challenges with alternative learning methods


Columbia Public Schools have faced challenges to their alternative learning methods as the date to return to in-person class has been extended.

Columbia Public Schools announced Wednesday morning it put a three-day pause on classes effective immediately.

Michelle Baumstark, CPS Spokeswoman said the pause is intended to give teachers and district leaders a chance to evaluate how alternative learning will look on a more long term basis.

The Boone County stay-at-home order required the school district to adjust its timeline from April 13 to April 27, but CPS stated that will almost certainly change as federal and state leaders have extended physical distancing expectations to April 30.

Baumstark said one of the challenges has been that every course is different and needs to be taught in different ways.

Baumstark said CPS has so many creative and unique offerings, but now they are looking at how do translate those now that classes are not in person as not everything translates online well.

CPS has around 19,000 students, all with their own individual WiFi connections. CPS tried to provide students with many different ways to access the internet.

"We've made hotspots available," said Baumstark. "Those have been sent out to students. We have, of course, left our WiFi on outside of our buildings, so students can go there if they need to. There is a list of alternative options for free WiFi available from area providers. So we're doing everything we can to try to make connectivity possible."

Baumstark said a number of issues have been related to not accessing students through the necessary process as students may forget passwords or ID numbers, but CPS understands every situation is different.

CPS said students and teachers are working to continue their routines and learning. and they are working hard to troubleshoot individual student issues with access.

Baumstark said the parental feedback of alternative learning have been a mixture of positive and negatives. Some parents appreciate the structure but others are challenged.

"We've got families that have parents that are healthcare workers," said Baumstark. "They're not home during the day you know they're not there to be able to support their student's and so those are all the factors that we have to consider So what can we do to help alleviate some of that stress for our families."

Baumstark said this process it's not gonna be perfect but they appreciate the patience and the flexibility families and students in allowing them to take a few days to reevaluate and create a new plan.

Kathy Steinhoff, Columbia Missouri National Education Association President, said the pause was unexpected for most teachers. 

“I think it probably varies for different levels that teachers are at,” said Steinhoff.  “Some teachers were a little more privy to this pause than others, but I think it was more surprising to teachers than not.”

Steinhoff said that many teachers have figured out how to provide the best learning environment under the COVID-19 circumstances, but there’s been a lot they didn't anticipate to happen. 

“We've got teachers who are now trying to learn a new platform to teach it,” said Steinhoff. “And they also are taking care of their families that are at home and in many cases have small children. Then we also had the added stress of the technology not working as planned. Then communication, it's really hard to communicate in a time like this and I think we're getting mixed messages.”

Steinhoff said teachers are extremely worried about how what’s happening now will impact the future of students. 

“Obviously different levels, it's more serious,” said Steinhoff. Seniors are a big concern of ours because we certainly don't want them to be negatively impacted by the situation that was out of their control.”

Steinhoff said teachers are feeling the effects of the pandemic mentally and emotionally too as they created a fix for two weeks and now there’s been another extension.

“I think that is part of the reason for this pause,” said Steinhoff. “We realized that this fit that we tried to create for these couple weeks because we only thought it was going to be a couple of weeks but the fix that we created. It just created all kinds of holes and what is in are we doing the best thing and so I think that's why the pause is here for us to stop and be a little more thoughtful about what is best for our community and for our kids at this time.”

Steinhoff said everyone is in a different place because of this virus,  but teachers just really want to be sensitive to their students, personal needs and their academic needs as they vary from student to student and family to family.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Amber Tabeling

Amber joined the ABC 17 News team as a multimedia journalist in December 2019. She was a student-athlete at Parkland College and Missouri Valley College. She hails from a small town in Illinois.


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