On April 6th, Enid Public Schools (EPS) made the transition, like all other 520 public school districts in Oklahoma, to distance learning. While never expected, EPS had positioned themselves to make a smooth transition to distance learning.  Additionally, over the past few years, EPS has been working on technology initiatives to provide resources to the over 8,000 students in the district.

“As part of the 2016 bond, Enid voters approved the purchase of 1:1 devices for all students, which have benefited them greatly in the classroom – and even more so during this current situation. The district is committed to ensuring the devices continue to be available for students, and we were in the process of deploying updated devices to students and staff when this health crisis occurred,” said Amber Graham Fitzgerald, EPS Director of Communications. In 2018, T-Mobile provided the district with a $1 million+ grant to provide free mobile hotspots to secondary students. This has enhanced their ability to effectively use their Chromebooks at home, as well as on the road.

The school district’s 1:1 access to technology devices provides Chromebooks for 3rd through 12th grade students and iPads for their youngest learners along with free mobile hot spots to all secondary students. The school building closure occurred rather abruptly over spring break. Since the elementary students kept their devices at school, the EPS Instructional Technology team immediately developed a plan to ensure those without access to other devices could pick one up. Additionally, they provided hot spots to elementary students who do not have Wi-Fi access at home. Over a period of just four days, the Instructional Technology team safely and effectively distributed 1,600 Chromebooks and 550 hot spots, meeting the needs of all families that requested assistance. “It was a massive effort to ensure that our students have the opportunity to continue to learn and grow through the final weeks of the school year” said Fitzgerald.

So how does the process work with teachers creating lesson plans and students completing their assignments? Fitzgerald explained; “Elementary students have access to a menu of learning options they can complete with guidance from their parents. Most of the activities are hands-on, using materials they can find in their homes. It is a great way for them to reinforce and practice the skills they have learned this school year. Middle school students are completing work with an online program that allows them to work at their own pace.  They may revisit skills if they need to or move ahead if they are ready. Teachers also are communicating with students about additional requirements and encouraging them to read. High school students receive their lessons through Google Classroom, which allows the work to be assigned and collected online. Extra help is available through email and Zoom. Principals even offer virtual office hours to visit with parents and students. You can learn more about EPS distance learning program at www.enidpublicschools.org/distancelearning.”

Through the transition, creativity and flexibility have been vital. “It has been most inspiring to see them continue to build relationships with students and encourage them, even though we are unable to be together in the classroom at this time. From fun video greetings to parades along our neighborhood streets, they have found exciting and new ways to safely connect with students. Regular Zoom meetings are making it possible to accomplish everything from classroom discussion and questions for older students to show-and-tell and sing-alongs for the younger ones,” said Fitzgerald.

Of course, during this time of uncertainty, EPS is going beyond providing educational opportunities by also providing meals. The Child Nutrition staff prepares and serves more than 2,900 meals daily. Fitzgerald notes, “During this time, it has become even more apparent that public schools are not only the foundation of democracy, but also the cornerstone of communities.”

Even though they faced challenges with the shift to distance learning, Enid Public Schools has continued to provide a conducive learning environment and is a model for fellow school districts demonstrating it can be done.

Article by: Trent Misak – ERDA Staff