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To keep the vital connection with students, counselor Stephanie Allen, from left, third-grade teacher Jaci Hess and Principal Dr. Daphne Jah handed out snack bags to families at West Madison Elementary School. CONTRIBUTED

West Madison keeps connected with students, families

MADISON – The COVID-19 epidemic may have closed schools but has not closed the concern of educators for their students at West Madison Elementary School.

“We have not had to deal with anything quite like this before. I was in Madison City when we had the 2011 tornadoes and, before that the same year, the swine flu,” West Madison Principal Dr. Daphne Jah said. “This seems quite different — I guess because of the uncertainty of it all.”

After the shutdown, West Madison personnel gave snack bags from Asbury United Methodist Church to school families and delivered lunches to our students. “We felt like the Pied Piper delivering the food when the kids came running to the car. It was amazing,” Jah said.

“We’re trying to stay connected in as many ways as we can,” Jah said. “Our teachers have been reading stories online using our Class DoJo online system. We have sent home daily/weekly activities that parents can help their children to keep their academic skills.”

Teachers have provided videos of science experiments that students can try at home. Last week, Jah read a book for a ‘House Challenge.’

Some West Madison teachers are opening daily chats with Zoom. A video will feature photographs of West Madison’s faculty and administrators with written messages for the students.

For a kindness quilt, students submitted photographs of their kind deeds for parents, neighbors and friends. “We’ll put the pictures together to make a kindness quilt and hang in the hall at West Madison,” Jah said.

On West Madison’s marquee, Jah added an uplifting message: “Students, we love you! We miss you!”

“The parents have been amazing. They’re sending emails and messaging back how appreciative they are of the activities, videos and chats,” Jah said.

To stay vigilant, parents can continue to check the Online platform that teachers are using. Many resources are available. “It can seem overwhelming but just do something every day. Parents often forget about practical things, like cooking with their child, using measuring cups and spoons — that’s math,” Jah said.

Jah suggested sitting down and writing a letter or card to a loved one during this time. “It’s twofold to bring a smile to that person, and the child practices putting thoughts on paper.”

Reading a book is so important. Teachers are doing ‘read-alouds’ online. Jah is handling a chapter book and related activities for the entire school.

When school does resume, students and teachers will have some work to do. “But I know our teachers and students (can) gain this time back. Our kids are amazing; they work really hard,” Jah said. “I do worry about students who were already struggling … we’ll have to give them extra tutoring and attention to get them back on track. I know our administrators, teachers, tutors and parents can do it.”

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