Versailles Goes Virtual
When it was time for her two sons to return to school in Fall 2020, Rachel Grider was a bit hesitant. “I had just had their baby sister,” says Rachel. It was the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which added an additional level of concern. “With all the risk of germs and a newborn, it just made more sense for us to go online,” Rachel says.
Luckily, the Morgan County R-II school district had just partnered with Launch, and they offered Launch virtual courses to all Versailles students for the fall 2020 semester. “The kids were home at the end of last year, but they weren’t learning virtually,” Rachel says. “The school sent home work packets to finish out the year. This was our first real experience with online learning.”
The Decision to Partner
The Grider family’s situation is the perfect example of why the Morgan Co. R-II school district decided to partner with Launch in August 2020. “We knew we had to find a way to provide instruction for students who didn’t feel comfortable or weren’t able to attend in person due to Covid,” says elementary principal Kimberly Murdock. “I’ve dealt with other MOCAP vendors before and never really felt confident in what they were providing. I really loved that Launch was developed and pioneered by Springfield Public Schools.”
Launch was the virtual solution for many students in the district, especially at the elementary level. “I think we started out with 40 to 50 elementary students,” says Kim. “We had a lot of students in the upper elementary grades—grades 4 and 5—who went online.”
Brayden Grider was in 5th grade, and his little brother, Ethan, was in 3rd. “Things went pretty smooth for the boys overall,” their mother says. “I think they really enjoyed being able to see their classmates through the Zoom chat. Especially my youngest, because he’s really into making videos—or I should say, he loves being the center of attention in the videos he makes!”
“We knew we had to find a way to provide instruction for students who didn't feel comfortable or weren't able to attend in person due to Covid.”
A Teacher’s Perspective
Once Morgan Co. R-II made the decision to partner with Launch and shared that they would have a large number of K-5 learners, Launch asked if the district had any elementary teachers who would be willing to teach online. “We asked Rachel Faron, who was serving as a reading facilitator and instructional coach, if she would be willing to make the move,” Kimberly says. “Mrs. Faron is someone who is always willing to be flexible and isn’t afraid of risks. She said she’d give it a try, and she started teaching first grade with Launch last fall.”
Mrs. Faron had spent an impressive 22 years in the classroom before she moved online, so she was a bit hesitant at first. “Never in my wildest dreams would I think that I’d end up teaching online,” Mrs. Faron says. “But Launch was nothing but helpful and gave me all the resources I needed.” Mrs. Faron taught students from Morgan Co. R-II during the fall 2020 semester, and then she taught a class made up of students from districts statewide in spring 2021. “I really enjoyed working with students from all over the state,” Mrs. Faron says. “I was really also pleasantly surprised with how the students quickly adapted and adjusted to what became their new normal.”
Mrs. Faron says she was also impressed at how her students felt so connected and comfortable with one another. “I would move the students into breakout rooms so they could talk and connect,” Mrs. Faron says. “I would go in and they’d be sharing personal stories. We did a lot of sharing time to get to know one another.”
In addition, Mrs. Faron continually worked to find ways to keep students engaged—it’s not exactly easy keeping 20 first grade students focused while they’re working from home all day. “Launch was helpful with this, too,” Mrs. Faron says. “The way the courses are set up is designed to give the students mini breaks. They’ll do a lesson, then they’ll spend some time working on adaptive software. There is a lunch break and some recess time built in.”
As she thinks back on last year, Mrs. Faron appreciates the way Launch allowed her to connect with students, despite the fact that she wasn’t in a school building. “There’s one student in particular that comes to mind,” she says. “At school he was super shy and quiet and struggled to participate in class. Well, he became a different student online, and it was wonderful to see him open up.” If given the chance, Mrs. Faron says she would teach for Launch again in the future. “I had a great experience overall,” she says. “Launch truly is a really good program.”
Morgan Co. R-II at a Glance
K-12 Enrollment: 1,362
Elementary School Population: 679
MASA District: West Central
Mission Statement: To achieve Tiger Excellence by uniting students, families, community, faculty and staff toward the common goals of lifetime success and learning.
Fun Fact: The Morgan Co. R-II School District covers approximately 209 square miles and includes the communities of Versailles, Gravois Mills, Laurie, Glensted and Excelsior.