St. Louis schools go virtual during snowstorm

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Updated at 5:10 p.m. Feb. 3 with information on St. Louis Public Schools Snow Day Plans

The first major snowfall of the year sent some St. Louis teachers and students back to virtual school this week.

In an online classroom on Thursday, first graders from the Ritenour School District ran through every number combination they could think of that added up to 10.

Restless first-graders walked in and out of virtual backgrounds they had chosen, including two matching magical woodland scenes and what looked like the ocean floor of Spongebob Squarepants. Their teacher, Kristina Erby-Carr, played songs to keep her class engaged.

Ritenour was one of nearly a dozen school districts that went into line as a powerful winter storm ripped through the St. Louis area. Many other districts opted to take traditional snow days, but those that switched to online learning logged on for at least part of Wednesday and Thursday.

A Missouri state rule only allows school districts to use about five days of virtual instruction. Some are already approaching that limit, between snow days and a recent wave of staff absences due to COVID-19.

Piper Feldpausch had an easier time with this virtual learning series compared to last year, said her mother, Rhonda Feldpausch. This year, Ritenour’s first-grader knew his teacher and classmates.

“Last year was more awkward because it was back to school in virtual,” Feldpausch said. “They were kindergarteners, so they’re not really used to being in school anyway, and then throwing them in front of a computer where most of them don’t even know how. getting it to work was a bit confusing last year.”

Erby-Carr also thought classes this week were smoother than last year’s – but it took some practice to get there. She worked with her students to learn how to use virtual systems.

Kate Grumke

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St. Louis Public Radio

Teacher Kristina Erby-Carr walks her first-graders through a game at a virtual school on Thursday. The Ritenour School District hosted an online class during the winter storm.

“We were able to build the relationship and we also had a lot of procedures and routines already in place when we use the computer,” Erby-Carr said. “I didn’t have a lot of parents helping my kids this year, like they did last year, so the kids were able to be there quite independently.”

In the Mehlville School District, kindergarten students showed off their favorite stuffed animals in their first virtual K-12 experience this week. The district announced plans to continue virtual instruction through Friday.

School officials decided to have classes online instead of on a snow day after hearing parents and staff preferred to have a predictable end to the school year, said Brian Smith, assistant superintendent. of teaching and learning in Mehlville.

“Administrators, teachers, community members, parents, they had overwhelmingly indicated that trying to wrap up the school year before Memorial Day was a pretty big thing for them,” Smith said.

St. Louis Public Schools also switched to virtual learning on Wednesday and Thursday, but the district will take a traditional snow day on Friday. Ashland Elementary School in the city’s Penrose neighborhood is near the state limit for virtual instruction, while Bryan Hill Elementary School in College Hill hit the limit Thursday.

Virtual teaching times are also different from a typical school day. In the Mehlville school district, students finished their classes at noon. At Ritenour, the students took a long break in the middle of the day.

When her students returned from lunch, Erby-Carr played music and showed off photos and videos her students had sent her of their snow adventures during break time. A student said that she tried to build a snowman, but so far the snow is not sticking enough.

Follow Kate on Twitter: @Kate Grumke

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