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Coolidge principals say online schooling going well

COOLIDGE — Having school in virtual classrooms has been “weird” and a “whirlwind” for Coolidge students and teachers since remote schooling began Aug. 10, but everybody is making it work, principals say.

“I don’t ever think you can replace the teacher and a full day’s schooling,” said Jessie Arroyos, principal at Heartland Ranch Elementary School. “It’s just a hard situation all around with parents working and making sure everybody has Wi-Fi. It’s a weird and different time.”

Nevertheless, Heartland Ranch students are studying reading, writing and math — plus at least one new concept and one new lesson — everyday, she said.

Arroyos said there are “glitches here and there, but our teachers are amazing, our students are amazing. The parents are helping out and doing the best they can. Everybody is working hard to make this the best it can be.”

Heartland Ranch is following guidelines from the Arizona Department of Education, Arroyos said, but when traditional instruction begins parents will have three choices of how their children will attend school: continue remotely, in person or a half-and-half method of two days each. Coolidge schools are closed Fridays.

“A huge benefit” for Heartland Ranch and other students in the Coolidge district has come with the use of devices students already are comfortable using. The Apple iPads have been in place for three years now.

“Our kids know how to navigate around that. We didn’t have to worry that our kids knew the technology. We just had to get it to them,” Arroyos said.

At the Coolidge Alternative Program for grades 7-12, the school year thus far has been mostly a smooth transition into the remote world, principal Marc Bruno said.

“It’s been a very busy couple of weeks,” Bruno said.

Teachers and the student body of 167 have made “small adjustments from the spring but we’re hitting our stride now,” Bruno said. “It’s definitely been an interesting process.”

West Elementary School Principal Vickie Williams has been pleased to notice the resiliency of her teachers as she personally has observed their remote-teaching work.

“Our teachers are really resilient. They are animated and work hard to keep them motivated and engaged,” Williams said. “It’s been a whirlwind. We are making adjustments day to day. We’re learning more about the technology and things and the techniques that go with them. We’ve been working closely with the families because it’s new to them and new to the students. But every day it’s gotten better and less issues each day.”

Ben Armstrong, principal of Coolidge High School and the junior high school, had a relatively calm day Aug. 13 compared to the first few days of remote learning.

“It started rough. We had some technical issues. As of (Thursday) things have calmed way down,” he said. “I actually had time to eat lunch.”

Students were having difficulty connecting through their laptops, Armstrong said.

“I think we could’ve done to be more proactive and to be prepared so we didn’t have to fight those technical issues,” he said.

Both secondary schools are hoping for student participation increases now that the system is operating smoothly, Armstrong said.

He added he appreciates seeing patience from his teachers, staff and parents during the “crazy” few days and expects all will encounter a new set of challenges when in-person classes are held.