On March 13, 2020 South Dakota’s Governor closed in-person schools across the state. RAI followed suit and closed our in-person Head Start and Early Head Start programs. As was the case with other schools, we were not prepared for remote learning. Many of our families do not have easy access to wi-fi, so remote learning via computer was not possible. It was a challenge.
We kept connected with our students and our families with old-fashioned paper and pencil lesson plans and worksheets. We delivered these weekly, along with a week’s supply of food, to our families. We collected the completed worksheets and delivered the next week’s lessons along with food deliveries each week. We got better and more efficient at this as time went on. Parental and caregiver participation was a critical component to the success of our students. Pre and post testing of students’ abilities help us to measure students’ growth and progress.
By August we were able to provide chrome books for all our students thanks to the generosity of area agencies and donors such as the J.T. Vucurevich Foundation, the Black Hills Area Community Foundation and United Way of the Black Hills. These came already loaded with curriculum so wi-fi was not required.
In January we were back face-to-face in the classroom at 50% capacity.
The National Head Start Office provided zoom training and webinars to help our staff operate safely in a pandemic environment.
We are grateful for the help that was provided to help us navigate this difficult time. We are grateful for the resilience and courage of our staff who put our students first under such challenging circumstances. Hopefully the worst is behind us, and we look forward to the future with optimism.