Online learning after outbreaks comes with challenges, opportunities for two local schools

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — COVID-19 presents major challenges for many Mid-South schools and teachers. Some schools are trying to accommodate students learning virtually while they struggle to keep the doors open for those wanting in-person classes.

There’s little movement on the campus of Christian Brothers High School, where all the boys are learning from home until Oct. 3. In-person classes shut down after six reported COVID cases led to a cluster of quarantines. 

The switch to all virtual was one the private school adapted to easier than most schools.

“Even before the pandemic broke out last spring, our teachers, their content is in an LMS learning management system that is cloud based,” said Jamie Brummer, CBHS interim principal. “Our students all have laptops. They’re able to interact with that content digitally.”

CBHS started the school year using the hybrid system where groups of students alternated days learning from school while others learned from home.

Brummer, who also teaches, admits instructing both groups of students simultaneously isn’t easy.

“It’s extra work. It certainly presents new challenges but I think long term, it’s going to present some new opportunities too,” Brummer said.

A cluster of outbreaks also closed Collierville High School but they are back to the hybrid model, with some students learning in-person while others log on from home.

More than a dozen teachers went before the Collierville school board Tuesday asking to go entirely virtual, saying it’s less confusing and safer. Only one supported hybrid learning.

“Over the past month every aspect of our jobs have changed,” teacher Charlotte Martin said, calling the situation “unacceptable.”

Collierville administrators say they understand the concerns but they must consider everyone involved.

 “We are happy that our teachers felt comfortable to come to the board meeting last night to voice their concerns and their opinions and frustrations,” spokesman Mario Hogue said. “The school district and the administration and the education board, it’s their jobs to listen to all the voices and really to put the student at the center of education.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Nashville are looking at teacher effectiveness during the pandemic. Public school teachers are evaluated on how well their students perform on certain tests, and there’s a push to now revise that criteria as teachers juggle working in a changing environment.

“As professionals we know that a good foundation is the success of a good classroom environment and we cannot continue to change how we teach on a week-to-week basis,” Martin said.

Collierville administration says they won’t be making any changes right now but they will survey a larger group of teachers to get their input along with others who have a vested interest in educating students in their community.

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