Baton Rouge Schools Shift to Remote Education in Different Ways

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La.March 23, 2020

The transition from face-to-face to remote learning prompted by the forced closure of Louisiana schools due to coronavirus concerns is looking much different depending on the school and, in many cases, remains a work in progress.

And an uncertain number of schools may just decide to close up shop completely until April 13, when the closure order is set to lift.

In the Baton Rouge area, many educators came to work March 16 even as their students stayed home.

At the state’s handful of strictly online schools, it was a regular day, mostly. Students continued their classes from their homes while their teachers also worked from their respective homes. Those homes, though, were a bit more crowded thanks to closing of all the other schools in the state.

“Some of our teachers do have some of their children at home, and some of our families have children who are in other brick-and-mortar schools and they are now at home too,” said Michelle Clayton, superintendent of University View Academy.

With more than 3,200 students, making it the state’s largest online school, UVA initially thought it would have to close for the month along with the brick-and-mortar schools. But the school, which is based in Baton Rouge, decided it could carry on with its normal schedule after rereading more closely Gov. John Bel Edwards’ school-closure proclamation.

The occasional face-to-face class, though, is off. Its educators, who normally come to the UVA office about three days a week, are staying home. And the online school’s upcoming field trips have been canceled.

UVA, though, is managing to continue band classes virtually, via an application called Live Music Tutor, led by an experienced band director.

“They are to actually come physically together and play at our graduation this year,” Clayton said. “If we have graduation.”

Schools like St. Joseph’s Academy in Baton Rouge, where students all have take-home computers, are also well positioned to make the transition. Starting March 18, the students at this Catholic girls high school will attempt to carry on their classes remotely, with teachers taking virtual roll.

The faculty, nevertheless, have had to learn new things quickly to try to pull this off.

Mindy Averitt, a spokeswoman for the school, said teachers spent March 16 training on a variety of video-conferencing software.

“The overarching goal is that our students remain connected to our teachers and remain engaged,” Averitt said. “And we have the technological tools at our disposal to make sure that happens.”

The vast majority of schools in the Capital region are setting their sights much lower. While many have lots of computers at school, they don’t all have enough for every student. And if they do, they only have enough for students in upper grades. And then there’s the problem of many families who don’t have a fast internet connection at home.

“We’re not going to be online where we are doing a full curriculum,” said Scott Devillier, school superintendent in Zachary.

Zachary and several other big districts are turning instead to a mix of print materials and online resources, what school leaders are calling a blended approach. The educators called to work March 16 locally were busy at work figuring out the blend’s different ingredients. Parents at these schools are being asked to come by and pick up the print part of the equation. They will also be directed to online websites and other resources.

“We’re just giving them resource material for them to keep their minds on education,” Devillier said. “It’s not important for me that they get everything done by a certain time.”

High school students taking dual-enrollment courses with local colleges online, however, can’t let up. For Zachary families with kids in those courses who lack internet access at home, the school district is providing hot spots.

“Those kids will definitely have to stay up with those courses,” Devillier said.

BASIS Baton Rouge charter school is trying to keep up the rhythms of the school day from afar.

On March 16, via Facebook Live, Head of School Roberto Ramirez and the school’s administrative team held morning announcements, complete with the pledge of allegiance and a moment of silence. Then they led the viewers on a tour of the school, where teachers were working on the school’s transition plan.

“Your teachers are working hard so that you guys have work to do (during the break),” Ramirez said. “No excuses. Please listen to whoever is taking care of you these days so you can continue to learn.”

Clayton, with University View, said some of her best educators spend years in traditional classes earlier in their careers and they found ways to bring that know-how to their online classes. She said she’s talking with the state Department of Education about ways their online expertise can be shared with teachers who have yet to make that leap.

‘We could train other teachers to be better teachers,” she said.



This article was written by Charles Lussier from The Advocate, Baton Rouge, La. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to