The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything — from the way parents work to how students learn to the people we interact with daily. While all these shifts could have caused chaos, the staff and faculty at Roseville Community Schools chose to embrace the changes.
“For every crisis, there’s an opportunity,” says Mark Blaszkowski, the superintendent of Roseville Community Schools. “We’ve taken advantage of this crisis to create an opportunity to challenge us and to push us to learn more about how to do things a little differently and better.”
And they’ve succeeded. While there’s been a learning curve involved, it hasn’t stopped the district from pushing forward and continuing to ensure that each student is supported academically and emotionally.
Here, Blaszkowski shares three key ways the district is working through this unprecedented time.
Feeding students’ minds
Access to technology is integral for success right now. To ensure students aren’t at a disadvantage, the district has provided iPads to children in kindergarten to second grade and laptops for those in grades 3-12. Instructional teachers are able to assist students, teachers and parents on how to use the technology provided to them.
“Every household has a different level of knowledge of technology,” Blaszkowski says. “We are trying to support them wherever they are at.”
To provide assistance, instructional coaches help teachers and families with basic computer skills, conduct how-to videos and more to make sure everyone is technologically savvy enough to learn remotely.
Learning looks different at every stage, he adds, because expectations vary among the grade levels and courses being taught.
“We’ve had to be pretty flexible because everybody has been thrown into this without a lot of preparation,” Blaszkowski says.
“For PE teachers, every lesson might be a video to show kids what they want to do, but a math teacher might not have a video for every single lesson,” he notes. Some teachers may augment with written directions or instruct kids to go to a certain website.
“One thing we learned is that we were giving out assignments and we were finding out a lesson a day, or an assignment a day, is impossible to do in this environment,” he adds — so they decided to focus on the instructional lessons and less on the assignments. The district has also created a credit/no credit system instead of grades.
Fueling their bodies
Proper nutrition supports learning, but for some children, there isn’t always access to three meals per day. When school is in session, every student at Roseville Community Schools receives free breakfast and lunch.
“That’s based on the needs in our community and our students,” Blaszkowski says.
To ensure that kids are eating now that in-person instruction has paused, the district continues to offer free meals.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, each building in the district serves as a pick-up place for free meals for children ages 0-18 and those with special needs up to age 26. Children receive a total of five breakfasts and five lunches each week, he notes, and this offering will continue through the rest of the school year and potentially throughout the summer, too.
Focusing on mental health
An early end to the school year, a new way of learning, the loss of in-person interaction with friends, extracurricular activities and the fear of the unknown — there are many things that students are struggling with right now.
That’s why it’s also imperative that the district focus on the well-being of each student.
“We have a crew working on the social-emotional side, as well,” Blaszkowski says. “We have resources posted online, we have staff that works in our restorative practices program — and they’ve always worked with those high-risk kids that are having issues to help them sort through that.”
This staff has been contacting kids and following up with them, if needed, to make sure they are doing OK. In addition, they are there for students who need to talk and can assist in directing youth to mental health support systems in Macomb County.
When in-person learning begins again, these same staffers will be there to help students work through any anxiety they may have returning to school.
Content brought to you by Roseville Community Schools. For more information, visit rosevillepride.org.