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Expert Voices on COVID and Rural Communities

Facts, # of schools/districts/students served/teachers, names of counties with links

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Perspective | Consistency and Care
Confronting COVID-19 in a Rural School 

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During the coronavirus crisis — and any future periods of at-home teaching and learning — rural school districts face special challenges. In North Carolina’s Edgecombe County Public Schools, Multi-Classroom Leader Amy Pearce said in a recent interview that two keys to taking care of students will be school-wide consistency and a focus on taking care of stressed teachers.

Pearce, a multi-classroom leader for a math team of three teachers and a reach associate at North Edgecombe High School, said her rural school’s educators avoid “online” or “remote” learning, instead saying they have a “continuum of instruction” plan. Of their 200 students, about 70 lacked devices or internet access after schools shut down. Those students had to get packets of work delivered by school buses that also delivered food.

“That’s the biggest challenge that we’re having now. If we could go fully remote and knew that our kids had full access to those resources, we could really do some dynamic things with this remote learning, but it’s trying to figure out where that balance is in equity — planning for students with online access versus those who only have access to paper packets,” said Pearce, an Opportunity Culture Fellow.

Even figuring out how to return packets safely posed challenges. Although some teachers had students send photos of their work, not all students could do that.

But the school, which recently celebrated its third straight year of exceeding student learning growth expectations, is moving quickly under Principal Donnell Cannon and the leadership team to confront its challenges.

Pearce said they were pleased to see the strong relationships teachers previously formed with students paying off now.

“Our teachers are spending a lot of time on calling and texting kids,” she said. “A lot of kids, especially high school kids, don’t want to reach out to an adult and say I need this—but I’ve just been amazed at how many of our kids are reaching out to our teachers and saying, ‘I need x-y-and-z, this is what I don’t have,’ because you don’t see that all of the time, because they want to kind-of keep those things safe and protected for their families. So it was a testament to the relationships and the work we’ve done over the past two or three years.”

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