Published 04.25.2020 | Reading Time 5 min 30 sec
By J Kavin Ross, Senior Writer
In this new decade of 2020, the coronavirus has halted many lives by creating a path of death and destruction around the world. The worst similar incident to occur was over a century ago. In 1918, the influenza epidemic killed over 50 million people around the world.
Today, gathering places such as concerts, ballgames, restaurants, malls, and bars were closed. Schools around the nation were not exempted. They, too, were ordered to close during this deadly pandemic. There is no known cure, and the only prevention to keep the virus from spreading person to person is to avoid personal contact by social and physical distancing.
For right now, traditional education is placed on pause. All schools in Oklahoma were closed by State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. She stated that the COVID-19 closures had exposed an equity gap between students who have home internet access, and those who do not. “I want every one of our Oklahoma students to have access to a computer and internet access at home,” she said. “And I won’t rest until that’s done.”
At McKinley Elementary, 6703 E. King Street, over five hundred laptops were distributed to its student body. In a school building setting, there are numerous applications available for learning, such as Zoom, an internet-based program that allows visual and audible communications between the educator and their students. With access to the internet, students are doing their part in CONVID-19 prevention. The Distance Learning program, by way of computers, focuses on building strong student-teacher relationships and provides the student with meaningful content that will sustain them through to the end of the school year.
“The relationships that I have with my students, staff, and families are irreplaceable, and I greatly miss them. However, I get to see them daily in their own environment on ZOOM,” stated school principal Lynnette Dixon.
Teaching and learning schedules are designed to prioritize regular person-to-person check-ins for every student to foster a sense of belonging. The approach includes both online and offline activities for at-home learning that focus on reading, writing, mathematics, and problem-solving. On the front line of this technology, kindergarten teacher Rhonda Tunnell stated. “McKinley staff has reached out to families to ensure everyone has a device and can use it for all the new online academics during this critical time. It is an amazing and ongoing learning journey we all are taking!”
The state’s top educator plans to work with internet service providers and leverage emergency funds from the federal government to get it done. “The best way to educate students while their schools are closed is through online learning. That can’t happen without connectivity, so let’s make it happen for all kids, and be prepared for the summer or the fall with or without a pandemic,” Hoffmeister declared.
Cox Media, one of the many internet providers for Oklahoma, responded to Superintendent’s request. For qualifying families with K-12 children who are eligible for the National School Lunch Program, SNAP, and/or TANF; who receive Tenant-Based Vouchers, Project-Based Vouchers or Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance (PBRA); and/or who live in Public Housing, can receive internet access for less than $10. A family who do not qualify, but need the connection, can apply under Covid-19 special promotional rates. Starting-plans at $50.00, modem included, do not require a contract, credit checks, or deposits.
“Support staff and administrators have had boots on the ground, ready to assist and meet the needs. We have had office hours for families to come into the building for support, as well as the district hotline that’s available. Our students and staff are resilient. I must say that I have learned a lot during this short period from my team. I have been extremely impressed by our staff, and students’ ability to navigate these new systems,” Proclaimed Dixon. “I’m so encouraged by the eagerness of our families to support our students’ learning in any way possible,” stated first-grade teacher Shonna Cooper.
“They are going above and beyond, outside of their comfort zones, to ensure their children’s learning continues through this unprecedented time,” Cooper said. McKinley Elementary is also one of forty-three food sites where families with children, 18 and younger, can receive a nutritious lunch in the Tulsa area.
J. Kavin Ross is a contributing writer for the Black Wall Street Times and the Founder and Editor of the Greenwood Tribune. James Kavin Ross is a connoisseur of all things Black Wall Street of America. Since his return from Houston, Texas, now over two decades, Ross hit the ground running in the quest of researching the hidden and untapped history of Tulsans of the Greenwood community. Inspired by the works of Dr. John Hope Franklin, a native Tulsan and world-renowned author and historian, Ross was lead on the path in search of the history of Black Wall Street of America. Researching the history and culture of his hometown is just one of his many passions.