VLO Students Staying Connected to Home Schools

VLO Students Staying Connected to Home Schools
Posted on 09/07/2020
This is the image for the news article titled VLO Students Staying Connected to Home Schools

VLO students staying connected to home schools photo collageWhile about a quarter of Lakota students might be learning virtually from their own homes, the goal is to keep them as connected to their home school as possible.

A partnership between the Virtual Learning Option (VLO) and school principals is focused on ways to maintain this connection. Students receive communications from their home school, can participate in extracurriculars, and can even get their school pictures taken and be part of the yearbook. Whenever possible, students have a VLO teacher from their home school.

Principal Kevin Thomas employs a variety of methods to help VLO students stay connected to their Shawnee ECS family. Videos, social media and even adding a ‘VLO Corner’ to the school’s weekly ‘Tiger Times’ newsletter are a few examples.

Many schools like Endeavor Elementary are recording their morning announcements so that teachers can show them during VLO morning meetings or for students to watch during the day.

Adena Elementary has even set up their own YouTube channel for their morning announcements. “We knew we needed announcements that didn’t have to take place in ‘real time’ since students in the VLO may be working on a different schedule than the school,” said Assistant Principal Jordan Eisenhard. The announcements include a shout out segment where both in-school and VLO teachers can nominate students doing positive things. “A majority of our shout outs have been to VLO students which shows how much our VLO teachers want to ensure that these students feel connected to Adena and are getting the positive recognition they deserve in front of their peers.” The school is also exploring having VLO and in-person students email or write each other friendly letters to stay in contact.

Eisenhard says that VLO teachers also love to play the daily announcements because it makes them feel connected to their school. “What we often times forget is that although the students are at home learning and feeling isolated, so are the teachers.” 

Cherokee Elementary Principal Valerie Montgomery said “We have received lots of positive feedback from students and families about our morning announcement videos. They look forward to this start to their day.” VLO students can submit jokes of the day and can send in videos that can be part of the announcements.  

“We are doing everything we can to think creatively so that we include our VLO kids in lots of things around Cherokee. They are Cherokee students and we don’t want them to feel left out,” said Montgomery. The school just held their VLO curriculum night and she and Assistant Principal Todd Hartman welcomed them to Cherokee just like their in-person students. They encouraged students and families to submit any ideas they had to help keep the connection strong.

Cherokee even came up with a way to help celebrate VLO student birthdays. The school recently held their monthly birthday lunch; since VLO students aren’t at school to share in the celebrations, Cherokee’s PTA is making special deliveries to VLO students that include a signed card and a birthday spirit stick. 

Parents of Cherokee student Peyton recently shared this message with Montgomery: “Thank you for supporting and including the VLO kids. Peyton was SO happy to get her birthday stick and card in the mail yesterday. She loves watching you guys dance on the morning announcements, so keep up the great work :-).”

Fourth grade VLO teacher Jennifer Garwood connects with her Independence and VanGorden students through a daily morning meeting where they read books aloud, and she also holds a weekly optional Zoom Lunch Bunch where kids can join to chat and hang out. Each day of the week is themed – and her first ‘Thankful Thursday’ was a big hit. Special guests Kelly Carstens (school counselor) and Deputy Jody Green (school resource officer) joined the morning meeting.

“Because Mrs. Carstens and Deputy Jody always lead Thankful Thursday at school, it only seemed right to have them join us for our first virtual Thankful Thursday! The kids got to take turns sharing what they feel grateful for this week.”

Garwood continued, “We also chatted about the things we miss about in-person school, but also the fun perks of virtual school with statements like, ‘I miss art class, but I love getting to pet my dog all day!’ or ‘I miss recess with my friends, but I can eat snacks whenever I want!’ I thought it was important to acknowledge the things that we miss, while also shifting our mindset to think about some of the positives of virtual school!”