Laois school getting higher attendance online during Covid-19 pandemic
A Laois school has discovered that they are getting more students in classes for online Covid-19 lessons, than they had in actual classes before the pandemic hit.
Mountmellick Community School has had higher attendance in online video classes during the past two weeks than they had in regular classes a year ago in January 2020.
The principal is Larry Curtin.
"The phrase every cloud has a silver lining springs to mind," he said.
The first lockdown meant they had everything lined up and ready to go this January.
"Having provided google classroom assignments for all students and online video lessons in all subjects through the Zoom platform to 3 rd and 6 th year students during the last school lockdown in April / May 2020, management and staff of MCS put plans in place during the last term to cater for a similar delivery to all students in the event of future lockdowns.
"This proactive preparation enabled the school to deliver on-line video lessons to all year groups in all academic subjects from 9 am on day one of the current school closure on the 11th January 2021," he said.
The extra numbers were unexpected.
"One of the unexpected by products of the current arrangements in Mountmellick Community School is the manner in which student attendance levels during the past two weeks is at a higher level that it was during January 2020.
Mr Curtin says it may be down to there being less respiratory illnesses in general thanks to Covid restrictions.
"This has been partly explained by the manner in which seasonal common colds and flus in previous years would prevent some student attendance, currently many of these students are able to engage from home while nursing a cold or recovering from a flu. Despite the obvious shortcomings of not having students physically in school on a full time basis, nonetheless having up to 100% student attendance in on-line video classes is a remarkable achievement in the current pandemic," he said.
Mountmellick schools have DEIS status which provides extra supports to disadvantaged areas.
It means that students in need are getting internet access, tablets and webcams, with regular meetings held between the school chaplain, Home School Co-Ordinator and the Special Education team to make sure all are connected.
The free school meals that were provided are substituted by food deliveries to home of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, dairy and dried goods, with deliveries done by school staff with Laois Civil Defence volunteers working alongside them.
Larry Curtin thanks his staff for their huge efforts to keep life as normal as possible for their students.
"The professional, proactive approach of the staff has enabled us to deliver a very comprehensive on-line education to all of our students in these difficult times," he said.
"Along with the academic element of engagement the focus is also to ensure that students and their families are safe and well and that they know they have a school community who care about them and are available to reach out whenever they need some guidance regarding school," the principal said.
Deputy Principal Frances Kerry La Rosa says the online contact between students is key.
"Students expressed the value they place on seeing each other online, having structure to their day, talking to others outside their circle, realising that a lot of students and staff were feeling the same emotions, having dedicated lines of communication in our school for issues other than the academic, knowing we are all in this together, etc., This knowledge is key to keeping things ‘normal’ and staff dedication to our students is what makes it happen," she said.
The communication between teacher and students includes on-line video engagement, roll calls logged to the school office, daily communication from Year Heads to parents about attendance, punctuality, engagement and homework. All the usual school meetings are now all online, covering topics like the CAO, college and career talks, study supports and wellbeing.
Parents are emailing them in thanks, and Mr Curtin shared three letters received.
"I just want to thank MCS for an amazing home schooling experience! My son is loving on line learning feels he isn’t missing out in school that it’s more or less same as school just don’t see my friends but as he says I get to continue my learning!"
"Just to say thanks to all the teachers for helping my children to engage in online teaching and learning this week. They have been quite busy with live classes and homework. So hats off to everyone during this difficult time I just want to thank MCS for an amazing home schooling experience! is loving on line learning feels he isn’t missing out in school that it’s more or less same as school just don’t see my friends but as he says I get to continue my learning!"
"Please pass on my sincere thanks to each and every one of his teachers, the hard work ye are all putting in I really appreciate it! I know you are all putting in extra hours taking from your own time with your family to set up my son and be there for our children I really cannot thank you enough."