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Teachers struggle to keep children learning as coronavirus shuts down schools

DC's Friendship Public Charter School is hoping to use Google Classroom and homework packets to keep students from falling behind.

WASHINGTON — Teachers across the region are racing now to make sure young people keep up with their learning even as schools close.

At Friendship Public Charter School in D.C., the chatter of children has been replaced by the hum of teachers rushing to make sure the kids don't fall behind while home, sheltering from the virus.

The charter schools, with 16 locations and more than 4,000 students in the city, have been bracing themselves for this since news of the pandemic first broke. 

They're now slamming together more than four thousand packets of homework: English, math, social studies, and more.

But it's not just your old fashioned spring break homework package. Teachers will reach out to their students through the web with tools like Google Classroom and Google Hangouts.

"It has been a little overwhelming," third-grade math teacher Sherika Heath said. She is trying to learn something new herself now: how to keep students on track through a portal on the internet.

Friendship already gives tech to its high school and middle school students. It's now surveyed its elementary school families, and it will give the students who need one a Chromebook, even a mobile hotspot.

It's definitely not ideal," Social Studies Director Michael Stevens said about not having children in school. "But I think kids can definitely learn and grow and learn. We obviously would rather be in the classroom, but obviously things are what they are."

Credit: Mike Trammell, WUSA9
Georgetown Day School is closed on Tuesday due to coronavirus connection to a church.

Friendship is convinced it can make remote, internet learning work...
It already teaches hundreds of students through an online academy.... and that's given it a head start. 

"We will maintain it for as long as the mayor and the health director tells us to maintain it," Friendship Public Charter Schools DC CEO Patricia Brantley said. But she also admits a little sadness. 

"We’re worried. We want our children with us. And frankly, we miss them," Brantley said.

Friendship also plans to keep its students with fed hundreds of grab and go meals prepared and ready for pick up in the cafeteria. "I think everything is going to be fine. We're working hard," said cafeteria manager Maria Gomez.

Friendship is hopping between the packets, Google Classrooms and Google Hangouts, the children will learn a whole lot more than they usually do during spring break.

"These are my babies so I’m going to take care of them best I can," Heath said.

RELATED: Quarantine and school closures: What age can you legally leave your kid at home alone?

RELATED: DC schools closed until April 1 to mitigate COVID-19 spread, 'distance learning' takes place after early spring break

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