Head of Kansas Virtual Academy offers advice for local families learning digital schooling

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OLATHE, Kan. -- Most students and teachers are now about one week into virtual schooling, with all schools in Kansas and Missouri shut down because of the coronavirus.

“Let’s go racing. Hold your horses people,” an animated character bellowed from a Chromebook in the Lee’s Summit home of kindergartner Beckett Griffin.

The school district started its virtual school program Tuesday after it joined other schools in closing classrooms after Spring Break.

“Good morning LSR7. We’re ready. Ready to learn with you,” teachers said in a video released by the district that day.

Beckett’s mom Tonya Griffin said her daughter is eager to learn.

“Her teacher has really done all the hard work. I just have to go in and make sure she knows where to click and what to do,” she said.

But like other students and families, she’s getting use to the new normal.

“For me I like a lot of structure. For us, with that all being new to us, we can’t expect that kind of structure, and I think the biggest challenge is sometimes like today we are going to need three recesses,” Griffin said.

The Head of Schools at Kansas Virtual Academy and Insight School of Kansas, which combine to make a K-12 Olathe-based online school, said it’s normal for parents and students to be apprehensive at first.

“The first thing I tell them is to just be patient with the process with themselves," Cassie Barton said. "We’ve all got to give each other some grace with this. It’s a steep learning curve, but there’s no wrong way to do it."

She advises teachers, who’ve had to adjust teaching styles on the fly, to try new things, don’t be scared to fail, and to encourage creativity.

“It gives our students a chance to show their knowledge, other than just paper and pencil. So that’s really exciting for them, too," Barton said.

And don’t be afraid to let your child take on a bigger role in setting their own schedules. It might just lead to them being more motivated than you expected.

For Griffin, she said she knows she can never replace her daughter’s teacher, and she’s sure the schools will fill in any gaps later.

Right now she’s just trying to make sure no one is overwhelmed in uneasy times.

"We have to make sure we are not trying to overdo it here and stress ourselves out. The kids will feel that for sure,” she said.

Some school districts including Kansas City weren’t quite as prepared for virtual learning and are practicing what they call "distance learning” right now by mailing students packets. KCPS hopes to hand out computers to children in early April so the district can go digital.

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