With schools closed, many Kansas living rooms being transformed into classrooms

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OLATHE, Kan. — It’s back to school for students in the Sunflower State.

Monday marked the beginning of statewide e-learning as educators in Kansas took their students online.

Public school buildings are closed, and have remained as such since March 17 when Governor Laura Kelly ordered them closed as a precaution to stop the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

Since then, educators have worked to retro-fit their lesson plans to work on a computer screen instead of a classroom.

Danny Catanzaro, a math teacher at Blue Valley West High School, said he and other instructors are doing the best they can.

He and other teachers have their own brand of homework, recording video clips of lectures from their own living rooms and uploading them to a student learning portal called Canvas, along with applicable worksheets. The Blue Valley School District had already been using Canvas when the ongoing public health concern struck.

“It’s where we are, so let’s make the most of it,” Catanzaro said.

Catanzaro, like many teachers, said classroom breakthroughs happen when students and teachers are able to connect. The inability to present lessons in person makes that more difficult.

“Is it harder for me to get them to where I need to get them, yes. I couldn’t point and I couldn’t write as easily, but I feel like I still got them to make progress,” Catanzaro said on Monday.

Instructors from several Johnson County school districts are teleconferencing every day, and educators are aware there are important facets of each school subject they won’t have time to address before this unusual school year ends.

Science students at Olathe’s Summit Trail Middle School had a troubleshooting dry run at e-learning last week with teacher Meg Richard. She’s also uploading creative video clips and lessons.

Richard said the Olathe School District uses an online learning portal created by district programmers. Richard said the lessons she’s producing will be used by as many as 96 students.

“As a teacher, it’s always about connections about my content. Now, it’s connections with content and with each other,” Richard said. “Can you go out for a walk on a beautiful day and see the ecosystem — maybe 6 feet apart from somebody else?”

Students in the Shawnee Mission School District use a learning platform called Google Classroom. A district spokesperson told FOX4 there were technical snafus with its use on Monday.

Schools in Missouri began similar e-learning courses last week.

Educators in the Lee’s Summit School District have experienced tech issues with a learning portal called Schoology. A district spokesperson said that company is troubleshooting issues on a nationwide level.

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