Students get Chromebooks, reassurance ahead of online classes

Green Cove Springs Junior High reach out to families during COVID-19 break

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GREEN COVE SPRINGS – As schools around the district hand out Chromebooks to students who need an internet device ahead of next week’s rollout of online classes, one junior high is doing all it can to ensure its students are safe.

Green Cove Springs Junior High Principal Jen Halter has been personally calling every student’s family to ensure they have whatever they need during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. For Halter, it was second nature to reach out to her students.

“These are my kids,” Halter said.

The school district asked parents to fill out a survey that gave them an option to indicate that they need a Chromebook for their children for when school starts again online. Superintendent David Broskie said that 11,000 Chromebooks have already been handed. Halter said her school handed out more than 250 tablets on March 27. The school’s Chromebook-to-student ratio is almost one-to-one so providing these Chromebooks to students came with ease.

Halter, Broskie, district staff, school employees and a handful of volunteers spent the day handing out Chromebooks to parents via a makeshift drive thru in the parent pick-up loop for 11 hours.

“We want to make sure that every parent has an opportunity to get what they need, which is why we’re out here for so long today,” Halter said.

Just as the district sent out a survey to parents, Halter did too. Her survey went to every student and parent of GCSJH and covered a number of things.

“What do you need? Food? Help? Counseling?” were some of the questions asked, Halter said.

Students responded with requests for food and other things and Halter said she and her staff worked diligently to get those resources to students. Halter said the school’s counselors are available to take calls from any student or parent. She understands the anxiety that might come with a situation like the coronavirus outbreak and wanted the school’s counselors to be available to help however they can.

“If we didn’t hear back from students or parents, we made sure to call again until we could get in touch,” Halter said. “We should have everyone covered by the end of today.”

As an educator and leader of the school’s many teachers and staff, Halter said it’s been tough being away from students.

“We’re educators,” Halter said. “This is what we do and to come in and see this place empty, it’s hard not to get sad. It’s hard not knowing when we’ll see our students again and we all miss them, but we’ll be right there with them [students] as they begin online school ready to teach and answer any questions.”

Broskie said each student’s online schooling will be based around their education in school, so AP students will still receive AP work as will IB students and students on the standard pathway through education.

“It’s important that our students still get their education,” Broskie said. “We’re treating the start of this like a new school year. There will be things to work out and plenty of questions but we’ll all get through this together.”

The drive thru pick-up line required little effort. Parents pulled into the school’s parent pick-up loop, provided the student ID and showed a valid ID at the first stop of the process. They picked up a Chromebook at the second stop without parents leaving their cars. Volunteers and staff hand-delivered the Chromebooks through the car’s window, while wearing gloves and keeping a safe distance.

“We want our kids to know that they matter and that they are missed,” Halter said. “We are here for them every step of the way.”

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