Richland Two school year starts with empty buildings, students meeting teachers and classmates online

Richland Two school year starts with empty buildings, students meeting teachers online

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The first day of school in Richland Two started with empty school buildings and students meeting their teachers and classmates at home on their devices.

Richland Northeast Convergence Media teacher, AJ Chambers, got to his classroom early Monday morning to prepare for this very different first day. The 14-year teacher is having to teach a hands-on subject through Google Classroom.

“At first, this process felt virtually impossible, like, ’How am I going to make this happen?’” Chambers explained. “But what I’m realizing is I’m just going to be as flexible as possible.”

When students joined the virtual call Monday morning, there were some technical difficulties, like slow connection, and some students weren’t able to open links on their computers.

“Students who are having issues with technology, it’s not their fault, and I’m just going to show that grace to them and just try to assist them as best as I can,” Chambers said. “I’ll give them extensions if needed. Grace and compassion is super important.”

Chambers says teaching virtually requires a lot of patience, but he’s thankful his district is prioritizing teachers’ and students’ safety.

“My students are safe because they are at home. I am safe because I am here,” Chambers said. “Yes, I miss them. Teaching face-to-face is why I went into education, but keeping students safe is my number one priority.”

Chambers’ students have to share cameras and other equipment, so he says one challenge is making sure students can get to the building to pick that up. He’s sanitizing the gear and requiring three days before another student can use dropped off equipment. He’s also come up with innovative solutions, like allowing students to use their cell phones and online editing platforms.

Richland Northeast Student Body President, Ebony Christie, is taking Chambers class for the second year and says he and other teachers have set high expectations, but they’re also being accommodating.

“A lot of my teachers have been super flexible, and they understand the current circumstances,” Christie said. “They’re doing their best to make sure we feel as comfortable as possible.”

Christie’s first day of senior year didn’t include that last first day picture or social gatherings with classmates, but she’s encouraging students to stay positive and remember virtual learning won’t last forever.

“Even though we’re doing virtual E-learning, seize every moment and opportunity, and do your very best,” Christie said.

Chambers says he’s already prepared with gloves, sanitizer and social distancing procedures for when the district moves to phase two -- in-person learning.

While he’s teaching from inside his classroom, Richland Two gave its teachers the option to teach from home.

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