Beloit students head online for first day of school

Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News | September 8, 2020

BELOIT — School District of Beloit students took to their iPads on Tuesday as the first day of school commenced with all online learning.

Some children were doing their learning at home while others were at Beloit’s Stateline Boys and Girls Club, Stateline Family YMCA and area daycare facilities.

The School District of Beloit will be offering online-only schooling for the first nine weeks of the school year. Families had the option of attending Beloit Virtual School offered by district staff or the state’s K12 online platform.

Forty-five kids in kindergarten through eighth grades were set up at desks at the Boys and Girls Club with staff helping them with the online curriculum. The club received desks from the school district and donated school supplies from Lowe’s, according to Boys and Girls Club CEO Mark Rand and Director of School Age Programs Emily Peterson.

The club opened Aug. 31 to get kids in a solid routine before online school started Tuesday. Families were asked to provide their child’s schedule and associated passwords and to send their children to the club with their district-issued iPads. The school district delivered lunches to the students.

Rand said the club is working with the school district to possibly open up 15 more spots for students in its lower gym.

According to earlier information from Stateline Family YMCA CEO Ann Hankins, the YMCA Ironworks branch had 20 spots available to offer remote learning days for families who needed supervision for their kindergarten through fifth grade students.

Kiddie Ranch owner Marilyn Sloniker said online learning support is also being offered at her daycare.

McNeel Intermediate School Principal Michelle Hendrix-Nora said intermediate classes started being taught at 9 a.m. Teachers were in their classrooms providing the virtual lessons as they and other staff were responding to parents via phone and Google meets throughout the school day to help get them up and running. Materials will be distributed to students later this week.

“Teachers are in their rooms and meeting their students. They are getting to know them, helping them figure out when to go to class and how to support students and their families,” Hendrix-Nora said.

Hendrix-Nora said the day featured the excitement of a first day of school, although it felt a little different not having the 550 kids in the building.

Grab and Go breakfast and lunch meals are being provided and will continue through distance learning. All children in our community age 1 to 18 are eligible to receive the meals Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at all the elementary schools and at Beloit Memorial High School. On Fridays the district is providing an additional two breakfasts and two lunch meals for kids to have during the weekend. Those obtaining the meals do not have to be School District of Beloit children as it’s open to all kids.

Interim Superintendent Dan Keyser said he was excited to welcome back students and families and planned to visit a few schools today and check-in with our staff and distance learning classrooms.

“You might just see me participating in a few classroom sessions today,” he said.

Keyser said planning for the first day began several months ago. Staff started the school year with a strong curriculum, technology support and tutorials, video-recorded class sessions, virtual face-to-face learning, common digital platforms and off-line learning materials.

“We wanted to be able to provide a comprehensive, multi-component delivery of education in the best possible way to our students during distance learning. I know how important it is for students to connect with their teachers for successful and engaging learning; we have made that possible while in distance learning,” he said.

When starting off the school year, Keyser said he always recommends and encourages students to get a good night’s sleep, eat a good breakfast and show up every day ready to learn.

“Attending class and participating in classroom assignments and activities are vitally important to a student’s academic and social success at school,” Keyser said.