HANNIBAL | When public schools in Hannibal were closed in mid-March as a COVID-19 virus precaution, teachers and their students were separated.
During Phase 1 of the school district's education plan each teacher was expected to have at least one hour per day of availability for students and their parents. But the compliance level of some teachers to that request came into question.
“I know from my own experience it's a little bit all over the map as to who is doing what and how connected they are to students,” said Hannibal Board of Education President Mark Bross during the school board's virtual meeting in April. “I will be honest with you there are some who are not doing near as much as others.”
While Superintendent Susan Johnson said district administrators “realized our staff was being inconsistent,” she did not throw any teachers under the bus.
“Partly that (inconsistency) was because schools were called off suddenly and teachers were scrambling to figure out how to teach differently,” she said.
A new education plan – Phase 2 – was drafted for use from mid-April through the end of the school year.
“We wanted to set some guidelines for our staff so we could have more continuity within the district,” Johnson told the school board during its mid-April meeting. “As an administrative team that document was developed to share the minimum expectations for all of our staff, depending on what their role was.”
Included in the Phase 2 education plan was an increase in teacher availability to two hours each day “on the fact that we were going virtual with all interactions,” said Assistant Superintendent Shawn Brown.
“Two hours is the minimum,” Brown said. “They will be answering emails. They will be putting together some lessons. They will be doing some Zoom calls.
“We know that there are teachers working far more than two hours a day, connecting with their families and students. But two hours is what we have asked minimally for teachers.”
School board member J'Nelle Lee praised teachers for their efforts, much of which has been done without fanfare.
“I have talked with several teachers,” she said. “Just because a teacher doesn't post it on Facebook or social media doesn't mean they are not doing a lot behind the scenes. I think that should be remembered.”
“I would absolutely agree,” Brown said. “Our teachers are trying to think outside the box in a multitude of different ways. I can't say enough good things about what they have been trying to do. We had not asked teachers to teach virtually ever. Now we're asking them to completely change what they've been doing.”
Johnson saluted the teaching staff for striving to supply a sense of security to their students during this stressful time.
“We need to remember right now is a scary time for kids. It's scary for adults, but even scarier for kids. We need to stay connected to our kids so they have opportunities to reach out to their teachers, who they know care for them. Our teachers miss their kids and want to have their kids again,” she said. “I have been really, really proud of our staff. I think they have been wonderful.”