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Virtual Days Keep BCS Connected
Virtual Days Keep BCS Connected
Posted on 03/24/2020
Gracie Venturella, a second grader at Black Mountain Primary School, does her schoolwork from home during Virtual Days.Photos courtesy of Amanda Venturella, Jason Rhodes, and Alison Rhodes.

By Tim Reaves
BCS Communications Department

It’s been almost a week since Virtual Days online classes started, and BCS families are building new routines and schedules as we face the COVID-19 crisis together.

Amanda Venturella, a computer science and careers teacher at Charles D. Owen Middle School, connects with her students from home while also helping her daughter Gracie, a second grader at Black Mountain Primary School.

“Every teacher at my school made a video for students to watch first before they do the work,” Ms. Venturella said. “Because research shows that seeing your teacher’s face helps with comprehension.”

Every day, she and other educators meet virtually with their content teams (like math, science, social studies, and English language arts) to streamline lessons. They also meet with other teachers who teach the same students so as not to duplicate assignments.

“Our role as teachers the very first week has been to make sure the students get to try some meaningful learning activities,” Ms. Venturella said. “We constantly communicate and give feedback, but also ask for feedback to make sure that they have the resources they need and to find out what supports they need. The first week has been about learning how to be a virtual learner. I stress in my videos that students have to self-advocate and be proactive.”

Gracie has been busy with enriching at-home activities. She and other young students are writing, drawing, painting, playing outside, and using their school-issued devices to collaborate with their classmates.

A computer screen shows Buncombe County Middle College teacher Jason Rhodes and his daughter during Virtual Days.“Her teachers were very mindful about assigning activities she already had experience with, and I think that eliminated a lot of the stress,” Ms. Venturella said. “They gave her a variety of ways to show her learning.”

On Friday, Malaika Ward waited patiently in the car line at a meal site near Oakley Elementary School. She praised the teachers, nutrition staff, and support staff for rapidly rolling out Virtual Days and being a “rock” in turbulent times.

“They’ve made it fun and as easy as possible,” she said. “My kids want to do the school work. They’re excited about it. And teachers are 100 percent in communication still. It’s consistent support.”

Jason Rhodes, an English teacher at Buncombe County Middle College, said his high school students are settling in to a new dynamic of distance learning and setting their own schedules.

“The key for me is to keep them connected to both me and some school work so that when we are back in school we're all on the same page,” he said. “I'm looking forward to some of the ways we're going to be able to be creative with our own class YouTube channel and podcasts. I'm excited about the possibilities.”

Gracie Venturella, a second grader at Black Mountain Primary School, does her schoolwork from home during Virtual Days. Mr. Rhodes and A.C. Reynolds Middle School Counselor Alison Rhodes are also aiding students while taking care of their own two children, ages 4 and 7.

“My daughter fluctuates between excitement about being home with us and sadness over missing her friends and teachers,” Ms. Rhodes said. “We allow her time and space to process her feelings and try to keep things fun and engaging as much as we can.”

Ms. Rhodes and other counselors have been working hard to create online content for social-emotional learning; career, college, life readiness; mindfulness; and more.

“I have been busy checking in with students and parents and connecting them to resources while staying in constant communication with my department,” she said. “I plan to do some Zoom support groups and some one-on-one virtual advising.”

All the parents agreed that Virtual Days have been vital to keeping their children secure in a routine while also providing opportunities to think more broadly.

“My students and I discussed how this is a real opportunity for us to look outward and find ways to support those close to us and to also care more about those who aren't,” Mr. Rhodes said. “We are truly all in this together.”

    Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin, shanon.martin@bcsemail.org, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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