Rampant staff and student absences due to Oklahoma’s worst COVID-19 spike since the pandemic began have led some schools to revert to remote learning temporarily. We wanted to know what the transition was like for teachers, so multimedia journalist Whitney Bryen spent some time last week with Kayla Brownfield, a 1st grade teacher in Lawton. Here’s what she saw:

Speaking into a headset from her dining room table in Lawton, Kayla Brownfield chuckles and then leaves an audio-recorded message for one of her first graders. 

“You’re so silly,” Brownfield said. “Keep up the great work.”

At her feet, Brownfield’s 1-year-old, Cash, is holding onto her chair with one hand and clinching a rubber ball in the other. Her 2-year-0ld daughter, Mila, plays on a tablet nearby.

Kayla Brownfield teaches first grade at Washington Elementary School in Lawton. The district temporarily implemented remote learning on Jan. 11, 2022, due to a spike in COVID-19 infections among students and staff. Brownfield graded assignments from her dining room table on Jan. 12 while her 2-year-old daughter Mila, and her one-year-old son, Cash, played nearby. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

Focus is a struggle for Brownfield as her attention oscillates between her children and students.

Working from home provides increased physical safety for educators and students. But it comes with a different set of challenges.

Mila is up and down from Brownfield’s lap, forcing her mom to stop every few minutes to help her adjust. And when she’s not assisting Mila, Brownfield is scanning the room for Cash, who bounces between toys in the living room and dining room. It takes her longer than usual to finish grading the day’s assignments. 

Lawton Public Schools returned to in-person learning Tuesday, but other schools are continuing virtual classes while they weather the latest spike in infections. 

For more education news, don’t miss Jennifer Palmer’s story about Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan to address school staff shortages. Stay well everyone.

— Whitney Bryen

Need a sub? State workers to fill classrooms under new plan

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday signed an executive order allowing state employees to substitute during their regular hours. Read more.

New data shows public school enrollment by district

Plus five trends we found in the data. Read more.

Recommended Reading

  • Reliable, consistent access to devices and internet for remote schooling remains out of reach for some low-income families, despite philanthropy, federal relief funding and other efforts. [Associated Press]
  • School systems across the country are facing an unprecedented shortage of teachers, and it’s causing some lawmakers to loosen the rules to make it easier for substitutes and other staff. [NPR]

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