BENSON — School may have started on schedule in Benson, but students are not sitting in classrooms.
In-person classes have been replaced with remote learning options — at least for now — while Benson Unified School District waits for state officials to decide when schools can reopen.
“We decided to keep our startup date on July 23 as planned,” School District Superintendent Micah Mortensen said Monday. “COVID has caused so many disruptions, that we felt it would be best to keep our students on some sort of routine, even if it’s at-home learning. It’s definitely a new world for everyone, but we felt we needed to provide our students with a little bit of normalcy.”
Mortensen said the school district is easing into the school year, taking things slowly as teachers, staff and students adjust to changes.
“Today (Monday) we’re starting our Chromebook distribution, and expect to be loaning out around 500 devices to students,” Mortensen said.
With almost 500 requests for Chromebooks, more than 300 had been handed out Monday through a two-day distribution in the Benson High School gymnasium.
“Most people have never used Chromebook before, so we’re showing students and parents how to go through the login process and how to access Google classroom,” said TJ Chenoweth, a member of the school district’s tech support team.
“Monday we were pretty busy with a steady stream of students and parents, so I expect we’ll see a steady stream of people again today (Tuesday) as well.”
Angi Obergh, the district’s director of technology said that everyone coming through for a Chromebook has been pleasant, and she was appreciative of the district’s efforts to make the process as seamless as possible.
“Even though I’m disappointed that we can’t attend our classes in person, I’m glad the school district is giving us a Chromebook so we can do our classes remotely,” said Ava Durgin, an eighth-grader.
Stevie Davis, a sophomore, said she appreciates having a Chromebook, but learns better in a classroom setting.
“I really miss being in the classroom because I was excited about seeing all my teachers and friends again,” she said. “Remote learning is OK, but it’s not the same as the classroom experience.”
Mortensen said parents have been supportive of the school district’s efforts to move forward with classes in spite of all the unknowns.
“We’re doing our best to keep things as routine as possible, but that routine does not involve face-to-face classes with teachers and friends, and I know it’s hard on our students,” he said.
“The first big step was to get this Chromebook process started. Our teachers and technology team put in a lot of hours to get this accomplished. Fortunately, Chromebooks are super easy to use and our kids are savvy with computers, so that’s a big help.”
Once the school district is able to open its campuses to in-person classes, students who prefer to stay home and continue with remote learning are welcome to do that, Mortensen said.
With an enrollment of around 1,400 students, Mortensen said there are enough Chromebooks for every student to have one, if needed. One of the district’s concerns was making sure every student could get connected.
“Our teachers are calling every family to see how things are going,” he said. “This process is full of challenges, but so far we’re doing well. Our goal is to make this as easy as possible for students and parents.”