Watertown-Mayer distance learning hitting the mark - so far
Distance learning started in Watertown-Mayer Public Schools on March 30 as was directed by Governor Walz in response to COVID-19. Just like other school districts, Watertown-Mayer was asked to implement a distance learning plan within two weeks. “We reorganized, retrained, and rebooted a plan that was originally put in place for one or two school closure snow days,” said Watertown-Mayer Public Schools Superintendent Ron Wilke. “Changing the way we do school is not an easy task for students, families or teachers.”
But, two weeks in, families say it’s working, so far. The district emailed families a survey asking how well the school district was doing with distance learning. The results? Very positive, with notations for some tweaks to accommodate family’s needs even more.
The first survey saw 345 participants of 918 families surveyed - a response rate of 38%. 90% of respondents said they were satisfied or very satisfied with distance learning. 74% believed it has been easy or very easy for their students to do their work via the distance learning tools in place. 86% are satisfied or greatly satisfied with communication through all channels with email being the best tool for communicating with families.
Families were also asked to provide additional comments, good or bad, about distance learning. Responses from families were very positive but some had some immediate concerns that were prohibiting a good learning experience. One family commented about how much time their first grader was spending on school work compared to third and fifth grade siblings. They suggested a daily/weekly update from teachers as to what the expectation should be. Another family with students in both middle and high school felt the information overload was too much for the middle school student and “could it all be provided on one platform?”
Watertown-Mayer schools addressed these concerns and has since modified and adjusted their distant learning plans to accommodate families. Principals continue to work with teachers to maintain an appropriate level of expectation for student workload, how to communicate information, and how to accommodate different learning styles.
“I feel like (Watertown-Mayer) has done a fantastic job transitioning to distance learning. We have family all over the country with kids in school and I’m very impressed with (our) schools compared to others. It’s an adjustment for everyone. It hasn’t been easy, but staff & students are amazing! Thank you!” said one survey respondent.
“Overall, we are extremely satisfied with how our students are responding to distance learning,” said Ron Wilke, Superintendent. “Although it’s not an ideal situation, and we would love to have our staff and students back in our buildings, we stand committed to make authentic learning connections to support our students and their families.”
Watertown-Mayer students surveyed
Watertown-Mayer students were also asked to fill out a survey about their distance learning experience. Of 1,215 students surveyed, 784 grade 3-12 students participated - a response rate of 65%. 77% of students surveyed felt they can easily accomplish their work independently. 82% of students say they spend between 1 and 4 hours a day on distance learning with most spending between 3 and 4 hours a day. 88% of students say they are consistently able to check in for attendance. 85% are satisfied or greatly satisfied with communication through all channels, with email being far and away the most preferred communication channel.
Students had the opportunity to express themselves through an open ended question. Students mentioned having difficulty with the distance learning process with examples ranging from checking in for attendance to internet problems to missing the interaction of friends and teachers. One student summed it up by saying, “I miss school. I miss my friends. I miss my teachers.” Rest assured - the staff, the buildings, and the teachers miss you too!
About Watertown-Mayer’s distance learning and social services plan
The district is committed to supporting students and families academic and technology needs, meals and nutrition needs, as well as social emotional needs.
The district’s distance learning plan states that staff will provide group/individualized learning to students daily and be available throughout the school day for student and family communication. Students will be able to access learning materials, lessons, and activities which are connected to learning standards and objectives by grade and these activities should allow for student work completion with minimal to no adult help. Teachers and administrative staff are available to assist families via email or a phone call.
When distant learning went into effect, Watertown-Mayer schools, a bring your own device district, made sure each student was supported with a device at home. Families without internet access were supplied with “hotspot” access points. The district continues to support families that may have technology questions or need additional support from district technology staff.
Grab and go breakfast and lunches are available to all students age 18 and under at no cost. Pick up times are Mondays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at both Watertown-Mayer High School Door #7 and Mayer City Hall Parking Lot. Families can call for delivery if they are unable to pick up at either location.
The district’s COVID-19 web pages include a community resources page which has additional information and support systems for families to access, including talking to children about COVID-19, childcare access, food links to the Minnesota Department of Health, and more. That information can be accessed by going to www.wm.k12.mn.us and clicking on the COVID-19 link.