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COVID-19 turned educators into students

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School employees across America who normally lead their communities in education instead became students when COVID-19 swept the nation.

COVID-related constant change kept districts in the Augusta and Aiken areas scrambling for answers. Plans were made, but information changed and forced districts to make Plan “B,” then Plan “C” and beyond.

Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw, superintendent of the Richmond County School System, said the changing of plans was one of his biggest frustrations. They made decisions based on the best information available, then suddenly, the information would change, and they had to start again.

“Fortunately, we developed a strong relationship with our local Department of Public Health,” he said. “That relationship was the reason we were able to communicate effectively to our community stakeholders. And just the changing of information, receiving new information, validating information, that was probably the biggest frustration.”

The district learned to be flexible, to be able to throw away a well thought out plan, start again and not miss a step. 

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That was one of the bright spots. To receive, process and adapt to the ever-changing landscape. 

A major part of the landscape was the importance of technology. Bradshaw said they quickly realized the deficiencies the school system faced. Fortunately, businesses, churches, community groups and technology companies stepped in with donations.

“We took existing technology, and we distributed that technology to those kids that did not have any access. With the donations, we were able to really serve the population that did not have access,” he recalled. “In addition, we saw that some students and families had technology, but they didn’t have Wi-Fi capability. Then we discovered that some communities didn’t have the infrastructure, even if you had Wi-Fi, it just would very spotty. So, we issued the Wi-Fi device, the modified device, and we deployed the school buses out into the neighborhoods. So, we were able to cover many of those areas.”

Students were also a source of pride. Bradshaw said that although fewer students took the LSAT and ACT, scores for those who did increased over previous years’ marks.

Students also rolled with the punches when it came to graduations. For the 2019-2020 graduates drive through graduation celebrations were held at the high schools. 

“That was a very proud moment to see the parents and the community come together and it was actually a very organized event,” he said. “The following year, we were able to have stadium graduations. So, we made some progress moving from drive through to stadium graduations. Hopefully, we’ll be back having graduations the way they’ve always taken place in the near future.”

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Bradshaw acknowledged teachers faced an especially difficult time as COVID-19 spread and intensified. Some teachers were afraid to return to the classroom. Principals were asked to talk with teachers, determine who was comfortable returning to in-person learning and those who were not. Teachers either had face-to-face instruction or virtual. He said none had to do both.

The superintendent believes the best is still to come for teachers.

“This is an exciting time to be an educator and with this technology at our fingertips, we hope that we’re able to take our students to another level,” said Bradshaw. “We know that there have been some challenges with the return, but we remain optimistic, and we want them to be optimistic.”

Bradshaw knew the district was in a position to serve, to show strength for the community during a very dark time. He said, any time he needed encouragement or motivation he found it by visiting a school.

“Watching those children who chose in person instruction get out of their cars and return to school. We thought that may not happen for a long time, when our system made a decision to provide both options,” said Bradshaw. “Even walking into a classroom on the first day of school, looking into the screen of a teacher who’s teaching virtually and waving to the kids on a computer. We met our standard by having them in person and serve them on a screen. The teamwork is what got us through.”

Dana Lynn McIntyre is a Staff Reporter with The Augusta Press. You can reach her at [email protected] 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great puff piece about the literal abject failure to plan. They learned that folks can be scared to the point they allow systemic child abuse, such as making kids wear face diapers, that all they need to do is just close the school, no need to REALLY plan, just say you’re planning and say that things changed so much that you could NOT plan. What a crock of bullsh*t. I might FOIA request all those “plans” that they made.

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