East Mississippi students, teachers adjust to online classes

Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

Lamar High School math teacher Burt Cade prepares a video for his class Tuesday morning. Schools around East Mississippi are moving to online classes during the COVID-19 crisis.

Alexis Crawford didn’t expect her classes to go completely online during her first year of college. 

“I do miss being in class,” said the Meridian Community College freshman. “I loved my English class.”

Crawford isn’t alone.

She’s one of many students around East Mississippi adjusting to online work as schools and colleges have temporarily closed their doors during the COVID-19 crisis. 

To continue serving their students, K-12 teachers and college instructors are using online tools such as Google classroom, Zoom, Seesaw and Canvas.

While Crawford misses discussions in the classroom, she’s adjusted to the change, noting that she has more time to finish her work.

“I feel much less stress with the extended time to complete my class assignments,” she said.

At MCC, the school has opened its computer lab and student success center for students to do their work if they don’t have internet access at home. The college also has wireless points in the parking lot.

Suzie Gibson, a psychology instructor at MCC, is using a program called Zoom to teach from home. She’s also recorded lectures and a discussion board on Canvas, and set up a Google Voice number so her students can call her with questions.

“The number one priority for me is to help my students succeed,” she said.

At MSU-Meridian, Terry Dale Cruse, head of campus, said students have access to the computer lab at the College Park campus and internet access at the MSU-Riley Center. 

In addition to offering online resources such as Khan Academy, Meridian Public Schools staff are delivering materials to students without internet access. 

Staff have also been working with the Boys and Girls Club to make sure students are getting access to materials, said Melody Craft, the district’s director of secondary curriculum and instruction.

The Lauderdale County School District is planning to roll out a distance learning program called “H.E.R.O.E.S.” The district will also send out surveys to parents to address how it will deliver lessons.

At Lamar School, math teacher Phyliss Skipper said the hardest adjustment for her has been assessing her students to make sure they are learning the online material.

Ralph Henson, who teaches world history, said his students are used to learning through digital formats.

“It’s no problem with them,” he said. “The only difference is they don’t have to put up with me in the classroom.”  

For math teacher Burt Cade, adapting to online instruction has been challenging, but he said the staff at Lamar are well-prepared.

East Mississippi students, teachers adjust to online classes

Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star

Lamar High School teacher Phyllis Skipper keeps her spirits up as she posts a sign on her door prior to filming her assignment for her class.

“This was a big change for me,” said Cade, who’s been in education for 34 years. “But we had good in-service development.”

While Cade said he understands the need for online learning, he added that he misses the face-to-face interaction in the classroom. 

“You don’t have the one-on one interaction with your students,” he said. “You miss their personalities, trying to get to know them and influencing them in a positive way."

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