Education spotlight

NTI (Non Traditional Instruction) is familiar to the Franklin County Schools, something new to Frankfort Independent Schools, and completely different for everyone involved during the coronavirus pandemic.

With school systems closed because of the virus outbreak, NTI is being used to help students keep learning.

Franklin County Schools have used NTI before with days missed because of inclement weather, but this is the first time Frankfort Independent has used it.

“We’re given a directive in October or November to start preparing 10 days of work for NTI,” said James Myers, the social studies department head at Franklin County High School. “We post that for the administration so they know what we have planned. It’s put in a Google Docs folder so it’s accessible to the administration, and we make hard copies for all students.

“Most teachers utilize Google Classroom, and the students have a hard copy of lessons.”

NTI started Monday, and for the county schools is scheduled to last two weeks with the third week the system’s spring break. Classes are currently scheduled to resume on Monday, April 13.

“They can contact me via email or Google Classroom, on my Google Classroom page, and I’ve given them my Twitter account so if they have a question they can message me on Twitter,” Myers said. “If they have a question about an assignment or due date, anything, they can contact me.”

Using NTI during the coronavirus disruption has been a change for the county schools.

“This is totally different than snow days,” said Geoff Cody, who teaches American history and AP government and politics at Western Hills High School.

“With snow days you know the snow is going to melt in a day or two, and you’ll get the students back in class to go over those one or two days we missed.

“This is a little harder because you don’t know when you’ll be back in the classroom. There’s no substitute for being in the classroom,” said Cody, who’s in his 20th year of teaching and his seventh year at WHHS.

Teachers are available to students during the day to answer questions.

Stephanie Starkey, a fourth grade teacher at Second Street School, has been teaching for 17 years, but this is the first time she’s used NTI, and Frankfort Independent learned Thursday it would be able to use the format.

Teachers had to have seven days of work for students to take home on Friday.

“Some spent all night at school and others worked from home to get ready,” Starkey said of the teachers. “We had an idea it was coming, but we didn’t know for how many days or what it would look like.”

Starkey heard from students on Monday, the first day of NTI.

”We’re available during the school day through email or a platform called Google Classroom,” she said. “I have a teacher Facebook page, and I’ve given my kids my personal phone number so they can contact me.

“I had three students phone me to ask questions. Our principal (Samantha Sams) asked us to reach out to five families a day, and I did that. I had wonderful feedback, and the kids were all working hard.”

While it’s early, Starkey has been pleased with how NTI has worked.

“I think technology makes NTI much easier,” she said. “That’s one concern for students who don’t have access to technology. That’s one reason we’re reaching out to five families each day, and we’re supposed to contact every student in our class before our seven days of NTI are over, making sure if they need anything, and not just about class work.”

This week was supposed to be the last week before FIS’ three-week spring break, and the school system is also making up one inclement weather day and inauguration day for a total of seven days of instruction.

All three teachers recognized the support of their administrations and co-workers.

“She’s been a rock star through the whole process,” Starkey said of Sams. “This is her first year, and you’d never know it by the way she’s handled this. She’s just prepared.”

“Our administration is ready to help us,” Cody said. “They’ll help us find resources. The administration has been great.”

“That’s one thing I can say about my 27 years at Franklin County,” Myers said. “The teachers at Franklin County always put the kids first.”

Now they’re using NTI to keep that going.

“It works well in terms of getting material to students,” Myers said. “What I don’t like is the delivery of lectures, the interaction in the classroom, and the interaction between a teacher and student. You can’t replace the interaction between a student and a teacher.

“These are unprecedented times, and we’re doing the best we can.”

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