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East County Wednesday, Apr. 29, 2020 2 months ago

Pandemic one for the books in Lakewood Ranch

East County schools include online learning memories in yearbooks.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

The R. Dan Nolan Middle School yearbook will have a new section.

Pages that were meant to be filled with photos of the school’s flag football team, volleyball team, field trips and spring events are now dedicated to showing students’ and teachers’ experiences during online learning.

“With this unprecedented and unexpected [COVID-19 outbreak] and us not coming back to school after spring break, this was a huge game-changer,” said Lindsey McKinnon, the school’s co-adviser for the yearbook. “It changes the way we do things, the way we learn, the way we teach. It’s almost a new way of life we’re all working really hard to get used to and to come to terms with. It wouldn’t be the 2020 experience without having given some time and space to show that experience from our students’ point of view.”

Freedom Elementary School student Adaline Reeves makes a sign for fourth grade teacher Kelli Sanborn. Courtesy photo.

Nolan Middle, along with other East County schools, have chosen to incorporate memories of online learning into their yearbooks.

Through social media, the schools were able to ask parents to submit photos of their children doing online learning at home for the yearbooks.

McKinnon said students are showing their workspaces at home, whether it’s a desk, a chair by the pool or a spot under the covers on a bed.

“Basically, our views are all very unique,” she said. “At school, we go from classroom to classroom, and you know what to expect every day. Now we’re working from a completely different perspective.”

When McKinnon and Sarah Steckling, the other co-adviser, took on the responsibilities of the yearbook, they never expected to have to plan a yearbook that would include online learning as a result of a pandemic.

Steckling said the yearbook is incredible because “it truly captures our theme of the experience.”

Amanda Hirst, the yearbook adviser at Freedom Elementary, realized students might not be in school for the rest of the year and as a result wouldn’t be able to sign one another’s yearbooks. This left the autograph section empty, so she decided to fill it with photos about online learning.

Hirst included photos of the parade that teachers and staff presented throughout the neighborhoods of her students as a kickoff to e-learning.

Freedom Elementary School third grade teacher Gina Wilson cheers for her students during an e-learning kickoff parade.

Hirst also included questions for students to answer about the coronavirus and online learning. For example: What was the family’s reaction to COVID-19 and to the school’s campus closing?

“This is something [students] will never forget,” she said. “They’ll always remember, especially our fifth graders. They didn’t get to go on the Busch Gardens trip or walk across the stage. They didn’t get to say goodbye to their friends. Even as adults, we think our health and our safety is most important, but to the kids, what’s important to them right now is their friends, and they’re missing out on that.”

Although Hirst is unsure how the yearbooks will be distributed, she can’t wait to see students’ reactions to the book.

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