Lessons From Tornadoes Help a Community Combat Covid

They bent over individual white boards, grasping markers bearing their names (there is no more sharing) and taking dictation. “How do I spell get?” asked Ms. Moore. “Sometimes in the South we say, ‘g-i-tt,’” she hinted. “So, you have to be careful because it is ‘guh-Eh-tt.’ ”

But the hybrid schedule is hard on teachers. “The first couple weeks were rough,” said Amanda Land, who teaches Algebra I at Lawrence County High School. She posts assignments online and, like many, also makes videos explaining lessons. (When I visited, she had just made one on solving inequalities.)

As a Thursday-Friday student, Jacob Hughes, a Summertown High School senior, arrived late in the week, eager for class. But teachers seemed, he said, “a bit tired out and rightly so.” His classmate Kareena Mahaffey liked that the schedule let her work more hours as a personal shopper at the Kroger’s supermarket. Plus, three days of remote class let her “work at my own pace and not worry about being caught up with the other kids.”

While Mr. Adkins appreciated the public health benefit of the hybrid model, he feared it was not enough to keep younger students on track.

On Sept. 14, after a survey found that 74 percent of teachers favored an expanded schedule, the district changed course and began phasing in a four-day week. A planned Fair Day holiday (even though there is no fair this year) and fall break from Oct. 2 through Oct. 12 offered additional social distancing.

“If we go full speed and it doesn’t work, we won’t visit it again,” Mr. Adkins said.

As students started the four-day schedule, schools had fewer than 10 cases, but numbers in the county were rising. “They have a fair amount of community transmission,” said Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, checking a Covid tracker on Sept. 22. “It is going to be challenging.”

Tight monitoring and the fall vacation may help, but Mr. Adkins knows they may have to go completely remote. Which is a huge challenge in places like Lawrence County.

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