Pfc. Aaliyah Craven
50th Public Affairs Detachment
Photo by Sgt. Reva Catholic
Chance, a first grade student at Waldo Pafford Elementary School, works on online classes in his room, Sept. 3 in Hinesville. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, schools have moved to online learning to prevent the spread while continuing children’s education.

Marne students learn virtually amid COVID pandemic

Schools in and around the Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield community are now in session, most with either online or in-person options. The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted social distancing and mask-wearing protocols to protect people’s welfare, by which school systems abide.
To maintain social distancing, the installation communities started online classes Aug. 24. Local public schools have in-person or online options starting at different dates, such as Bryant County, which started Aug. 17, and Long County, which started Sept. 8.
Liberty County is expected to open up schools for teachers to return to their classrooms for virtual instruction on Sept. 14. The following grades are expected to have the option to return for in-person learning on Sept. 21:  Special Education students, Pre-K, Kindergarten, first, second, fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, 12th and Horizon Learning Center students. Grades third, fourth, seventh, 10th, and 11th are expected to have the option to return Sept. 28.
Originally, Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield’s Department of Defense Education Activity school system classes would be conducted in-person, but due to the pandemic, classes have been exclusively moved to online platforms. FSGA-HAAF schools are using several video conferencing platforms for classes. These platforms also allow parents to connect with teachers.
Gregory Cooke, who serves as the school liaison officer for FSGA-HAAF, said he empathizes with those dealing with the unique challenges the pandemic has created in education.
“With DODEA schools, they are using Chromebooks or laptops, whether that’s personal or provided by the district,” said Cooke. “They utilize those devices to get online and communicate with the educator or complete lessons online.”
Cooke added that there has been a tremendous change to how Families are experiencing the education process. Providing the tools to succeed is one way DODEA is working to ensure schools can resume classes as usual.
“Our school districts have worked very hard to make this as smooth as possible, and to be as supportive of the Families as they can be,” Cooke said.
Terri Yarbrough, a first grade teacher at Waldo Pafford Elementary School since 2000, said the transition has been challenging for teachers as well, but regardless, they are doing what is necessary to continue to teach during a pandemic.
“I started teaching back in [1981] and I’m used to face-to-face teaching, so all of this technology, I had to learn,” said Yarbrough. “The program, Canvas, was a challenge to me being my age and how long I’ve been teaching.”
For some, using the internet is a huge learning curve, especially for students who are younger or may have parents who cannot help. As time goes on, students and parents are learning the ways of the internet by working together.
Parents have had to shoulder more of the teaching responsibilities. Teachers and parents have had to work together to provide the best learning experiences for their students.
“The parents have really stepped up and they have really done a wonderful job being right there,” said Yarbrough. “They have been working side-by-side. It’s almost become a partnership.”
Sgt. Reva Catholic, a public affairs mass communications noncommissioned officer assigned to the 50th Public Affairs Detachment, 3rd Infantry Division, has a son in the first grade attending Waldo Pafford Elementary School.
“I feel like the schools are doing the best they can,” said Catholic. “This has definitely made it clear to me that my son’s education is in my hands.”
Catholic and her husband have been working with their son to improve his education while also being safe and staying home as much as they can.
She noted that her child has a set schedule of what needs to be completed that day however, at times the programs can crash.
“It’s up to me that he gets this education and is able to move forward in life and do well,” she said.
It has taken a combined effort to make the 2020-2021 school year happen. This year could be one to remember as Families and individuals overcome the pandemic and reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.