Coping with COVID-19: How School Administrators are Adjusting to Online Learning

An Interview with Glenpool Assistant Principal Gaylen Urie

In the United States, as of March 29, 2020, there are 122,653 cases of COVID-19 and 2,112 deaths at the hands of this looming virus. Students across the nation, and even the world, are finding it increasingly difficult to focus or pour effort into anything, including schoolwork, while the world is falling apart around them. Hometowns are falling apart, businesses are closing, and neighbors who once greeted each other with hugs, now greet each other with six feet of space and an occasional nod.

On March 23, the Oklahoma State Superintendent recommended an online continuous learning program for the rest of the academic school year. Since the beginning of Spring Break, high schoolers have had many things stripped from them due to the pandemic. Upperclassmen have lost their proms, state track meets, and even their entire baseball season, but the students who have lost the most are the seniors. The class of 2020 had their last day of school without even realizing it, lost their senior assembly, and even their graduation. However, the issues do not end with administrators rescheduling prom and graduation.

High school administrators are facing new types of hardships during this crisis. When asked about it, Glenpool High School (GHS) Assistant Principal Gaylen Urie stated that being an administrator during a crisis is “different.”

“There is a lot of work trying to connect with parents and students, which is normally a pretty simple task.  The interaction with teachers has changed drastically as well, which compounds the workload,” he said.

Urie also gave insight into the steps GHS has taken to make every class accessible to all students.

“We began by sending a survey to each home to understand the technology needs of our students. Our teachers then developed plans for the remainder of the year to reach all students regardless of the amount of technology in the home. Most of our students can work online, while a few will have packets delivered. Teachers will be available to support students during this time by various methods ranging from emails to phone calls to video conferencing,” said Urie.

The students are taking these changes well and are excited to start up classes again because it will give them a sense of normalcy during this time of uncertainty.

While students are struggling right now, faculty and staff are facing challenges as well.

Assistant Principal Gaylen Urie returns student emails while working from home.

When asked if working from home was more difficult than working at thehigh school, Urie answered, “I feel it is more difficult. Communication is more difficult when we are not all on campus at the same time. We take for granted the convenience of face-to-face communication and the interactions with peers. We have also become accustomed to students having devices to aid in content delivery and now we don’t fully understand what each student has to work with at home. It’s also difficult when we don’t know what the student’s home life is like and what burdens they may have at home. On a typical school day at our campus, we know that students feel safe and secure, at least while they are with us. All of these carry more weight when we just don’t know how our students are doing.”

Urie also had some advice to give to teachers and staff during this troubling time, “None of us asked for this pandemic and we all respond differently. We do not know the baggage or burdens our students are dealing with right now. It’s our duty to serve with stability in an unstable environment, to show empathy and togetherness in a distant and isolated world, and to show love above all else.”