During school closures, PGCPS will offer "grab and go" lunches for students at regional locations between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday at select locations. (PGCPS photo)
During school closures, PGCPS will offer "grab and go" lunches for students at regional locations between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday at select locations. (PGCPS photo)

While schools across the country have been put on pause to promote social distancing as a means of keeping the coronavirus pandemic from spreading, bewildered parents and guardians are pondering how to keep their children well-studied, relaxed and entertained.

As of this week, 45 states had shuttered school doors, meaning that at least 50 million students are stuck at home, devoid of the stimulation of their classrooms and dealing with the long-term loneliness and isolation from their peers. The closings have also left many parents having to home-school their children while trying to juggle job responsibilities.

“Take a deep breath and know that your children are going to be OK,” Charlotte, N.C.-based Bekah Hamrick, founder of a home school hybrid program, told CNN Sunday. “[The coronavirus] is a very unseen situation that we could not have predicted. Spend some time making a plan that works best for your family to decide a schedule and what things they’d like to accomplish each day. There are a lot of resources out there right now, so definitely take advantage of that through videos and things like that to help supplement learning at home.

“At school children are not sitting and doing work for the entire day and that should not be the case at home either,” Hamrick said. “So maybe you teach for 30 minutes depending on the age of your children, and you need to work in a lot of breaks. You also need to work in a lot of fun things.”

Hamrick added that at this time, children are also going through a lot of loss being socially isolated from their friends and activities they were looking forward to the rest of the school year.

“Allowing them to be sad and sitting with them in their sadness and telling them its Ok, we’re going to get through this together and letting them process it that way, I think is one of the most important things we can do,” she said.

Meanwhile, on the home front, YouTube cooking sensation and southeast D.C. resident Tanya Waller said in a March 21 post that her youngest son, a ninth grader at a public charter school, should think twice if he believes he’s going to sit around playing video games until school resumes in late April.

“I’ve been trying to call his school to see about his care package so I can go pick it up Monday, because during all this time out of school, he’s got to be doing something [constructive],” Waller said.

“If I can’t pick up a care package, then I’m about to become a home school mama,” she said with a laugh. “He’s not going to stay up all night watching TV. He’s going to pick up some kind of book. I’m going to throw down some math problems. I’m going to make him watch the History Channel, and guess what? We’re going to pull up the dictionary and he’s going to learn a new word every day. He’s going to give me the definition of the word, he’s going to learn how to spell the word, and he’ll be able to put that word in a sentence.”

Districts such as Prince George’s County are offering enrichment activity packets online for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

The packets can be accessed at pgcps.org/coronavirus and are also available for students with disabilities attending regional programs.

“While we encourage parents to have students complete the packet for additional practice in their grade-level content areas, we are not requiring teachers to provide feedback on the completion of these activities or to provide extra credit for work done,” Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Monica Goldson said in a recent statement to parents. “You can pick up printed copies of the packets at the student meal sites in limited quantities starting [the week of March 23] if needed.”

PGCPS also offers digital library services to students on a 24/7 online basis with PGCMLS Digital Suite, Creative Suite, and more than 85 online resources including e-books, audiobooks, music, movies, TV and educational resources. PGCPS students can access PGCMLS resources using their nine-digit student ID number.

In addition, PGCPS students are encouraged to participate in the daily “Attend a Virtual Read-Aloud” program, in which many children’s book authors are participants while schools are closed. Publisher HarperCollins is also hosting story times and read-aloud activities and entertainment weekdays at noon.

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