Students in Sherman returned to their lessons in reading and writing this week after an extended spring break. However, rather than crowding classrooms, many students learned their lessons from the kitchen table.


Sherman Independent School District launched its distance learning program this week, which will allow students to continue their education while at home. The new program is the district’s response to the ongoing Coronavirus emergency, which has closed districts across the country in an effort to prevent further spread.


“At this point where we are today, we have really asked teachers to be understanding of the learners and the families,” Susan Whitenack, SISD Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. “This is a unique situation. We are not trying to replace the classroom experience; we are trying to give them as much support as possible to maintain their learning and also give them some activities and lessons to support that learning.”


Whitenack said the district’s distance learning program primarily focuses on two approaches. Students who have internet access and supported devices will be able to receive assignments and educational material through Google Classroom.


“It basically allows a teacher to create activities using a textbook, videos and she or he puts it into a format where students can log in, do their work, watch something and be engaged in some learning activity,” Whitenack said.


Students who do not have access will instead be able to pick up packets that they can complete from home.


Through Google Classroom, teachers will be able to upload files, including videos of themselves teaching or audio files or live chats through Google itself.


“One of the things that has happened in this crazy, crazy time of Covid-19 is many online programming resources have opened themselves up to teachers,” she said.


While the remote learning is not meant to replace classroom learning, Whitenack said some teachers have taken steps to make the distance learning as close to the classroom as possible. Meanwhile, some parents have set up classroom in the home for their children, she added.


“I can tell you we have some very, very creative teachers and some have set up green screens to project a background that they are teaching from,” she said.


With distance learning, Whitenack said students are given the flexibility to work on their lessons mostly at their own pace. In some cases, parents are working with their children from home on the assignments.


Whitenack said she expects that parents will be a partner in this process, working both with their children and communicating with teachers throughout the process.


“We realize this is a unique situation. Families are dealing with a lot at this time, so we want to make sure that we are not adding stress to a family’s life, if we can help it,” Whitenack said. “What we are expecting parents to do is walk beside their children as much as possible.”


Whitenack said the program isn’t flawless and there are some courses, including hands on labs, that do not translate to the remote model. While the district is currently focusing on core courses, students are expected to get materials for elective courses and some special education courses in the coming days.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.