MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - For more than three weeks, Compass Community Schools has been in all-virtual classes. As one of the first districts in Shelby County to reopen, teachers see it as a unique opportunity to help friends in the municipal districts to settle into virtual teaching.
Since Aug. 3, students at Compass Community Schools’ six campuses have been learning online. With nearly a month of virtual class under its belt, the district is eager to get students back to class, but not until they deem it totally safe.
"I told [staff], ya'll thought last year was hard. Bring on the challenges," Compass Hickory Hill Principal James Shelton said.
Last school year, Compass Hickory Hill Principal James Shelton was helping launch a whole new district. Compass Community Schools took over the former Jubilee Catholic Schools’ locations. This school year, he’s helping launch an all-virtual start to the semester as one of the first districts to open with it in Shelby County.
"Our planning goes from planning for one situation where everyone is in the building to having three different settings," Shelton said.
Each child has a laptop or tablet with teaching happening live and asynchronously.
"It's been successful. We've switched platforms for our K-2 that is more user friendly for a tablet," Shelton said. "We've gone to Seesaw. Then we do Google Classrooms for [grades] 3-8."
"You can imagine what the first day was like. I was on mute. They were on mute," Compass Hickory Hill second grade teacher Jessica Steenbergen said.
With more than three weeks already under her belt, second grade teacher Jessica Steenbergen said she feels she has a unique role to play with her fellow teachers in other Shelby County districts.
"I have a lot of friends who are in SCS who haven't started yet," Steenbergen said. "I get to see what works for my students and share it with my friends now they're going in with all these ideas I didn't have before I started."
No students will be back in a physical classroom at Compass Community Schools until at least after Labor Day. Then, families would have the choice of a hybrid schedule or remaining fully virtual.
Shelton has said he'd like to get grades K-3 back in school first.
“The phrase we always hear is second to third grade, you’re changing from learning to read to reading to learn,” Shelton said. “That’s very true. Once the student has really solid foundational reading skills they can navigate the platforms and read all the assignments themselves.”
Steenbergen, as a second grade teacher, knows this is a crucial time in her students’ development. Because of this, she said she’s hitting the ground running, sparing no time getting students back to learning whether it’s virtual or in-person.