Shutdown allows teachers to ramp up in tech, ‘close the gap,’ Richardson says

MADISON – In his experience, Rodney Richardson, Principal at Horizon Elementary School, said the only scenario like the COVID-19 epidemic is the tornado outbreak in April 2011.

“I’ve been in Madison City Schools for 23 years now. I’ve seen the H1 (virus outbreak), but this pandemic is something new, not like any of the other times,” Richardson said.

For his school family, Richardson has reached out by Facebook and Twitter to parents, students and teachers. “My emphasis has been academics exercises and just saying, ‘Hello,’ to my students,” he said.

The first two weeks after the school shutdown, Horizon served as a pickup site for lunch for many students across the community. Horizon’s cafeteria staff, classroom teachers and volunteers helped package and hand out the food.

Horizon’s empty hallways and silent classrooms are a somber setting for teachers and administrators. “The Horizon faculty and staff are missing the student body right now. But many teachers are reaching out and conducting Zoom lessons with their students,” Richardson said.

“Feedback has been great and very positive from parents. They really appreciate that all our teachers are making sure our students stay engaged in learning, as well as just communicating,” Richardson said.

Will students ‘suffer’ from time away from the classroom? Can teachers bridge the gap with online learning? “I believe that students will grow in their own independence during this time,” Richardson said. “During this time, students, as well as some educators, will overcome some of the anxieties of technology and use this time to close that gap.”

If parents are concerned about activities or lessons, they should contact their child’s teacher and conference with them by telephone, email or Zoom “to make sure they are on the same page. What better time than now to have a phone conference with your child’s teacher to make that they both champion a successful plan!” Richardson said.

Horizon teachers are working very hard to confirm that this transition for end-of-the-year needs is smooth as possible for all students and families in our community. “We really appreciate the ‘Partnership’ with our parents to make sure all our kids are ‘Learning,’” Richardson said. “We wish everyone the best. Stay safe.”

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