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story.lead_photo.caption Photo submitted Teachers had only a few days to get familiar with Google Classroom before using it to work with students.

On the last day they were in class, March 13, Cooper Elementary students brought something extra home. Each student in the Bentonville district, including almost 700 at Cooper, brought home a laptop.

Cooper has had enough laptops for every student for about two years, Principal Chad Mims explained. Usually, they sit on a cart in the classroom. Students use them during class time and return them to the cart when they are finished. This is the first time all the laptops have gone home.

On that Friday, no one knew if school would be in session on the following Monday, but the school was preparing just in case.

Teacher Shannon Tweedy said teachers had about two weeks to get familiar with the idea of teaching online. The Bentonville District is using Google Classroom. Older students were familiar with the software and even the youngest can learn how to navigate it she said.

"The district prepared us," she said. "They didn't know what would happen, they just knew it was a possibility."

Tweedy is one of several Cooper teachers who is home with her own children even while she's keeping up with her students online.

"Several students have messaged me or emailed me. They can ask questions. I can call them if they need help."

The district, with help from Cox, has been working to make sure all students have the internet at home. If they can't get online, there are packets of lessons that are distributed.

Teachers had some paper lesson packets prepared for possible snow days, Mims said. District curriculum specialists are working on more, but only a few Cooper students need the paper alternative. Most of them are online.

The online lessons include "specials," Mims said. Specials include PE, library, music and a few others that rotate in Google Classroom, similar to the rotation during the regular school year.

About one-third of Cooper's students receive free or reduced school lunches. When school was canceled, the district quickly put a plan to distribute both breakfast and lunch. Parents can pick up lunch and breakfast items for the next day at one of five sites -- including New Life Christian Church on Riordan Road. The lunches are provided to go. Any child in the district can get lunch.

If picking up a lunch is an issue, parents can contact the school counselor who can help them work out a plan, Mims said.

During spring break, lunches will still be provided, but students and teachers can take a break from online learning. Spring break is this week, ending on Friday, March 27.

Only Mims and Vice-Principal Rachel Manus are in the school, but the rest of the school staff is available by phone. The counselors are in touch with families that need their help, he said.

Both Mims and Tweedy have seen Facebook posts that use humor to express parents' frustration helping their children with school work.

Humor, Mims said, can be helpful in a stressful situation.

"We understand the anxiety of the parents. It takes us all working together," Mims said.

"I feel bad. I would rather be in the classroom, but I understand how we have to do it online. Parents are not familiar and that's a struggle," Tweedy said.

She had a few tips to make home school easier.

It's best to develop a schedule, she said. But the schedule should include frequent breaks.

"Take a walk, or throw a ball," she said. "Even during the school day, kids get recess," she added. "Sometimes it helps to get up and get dressed just as if you're going to school."

General News on 03/25/2020

Print Headline: Schools close but kids still learning

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