Instructors continue to teach classes. Students continue to learn. And staff continue overseeing daily operations.

That's the normal part of life at Northeast Tech's Claremore campus; but plenty has changed at the school during a pandemic, including a shared duty for everyone — keeping things clean and sanitary.

"Our maintenance and custodial staff and our instructors and our students have been instilled from the beginning that that's all of our responsibilities," said Liberty Shere, Northeast Tech's Claremore campus director.

In an interview this week, Shere discussed the changes on the Claremore campus, which offers high school juniors and seniors — along with adults — hands-on classes for programs like health careers and machining.

The school has gone to a block schedule that limits students' in-person attendance to two days each week. It has changed when students take a break during their three-hour, on-campus class sessions. It has a machine taking people's temperatures when they arrive. And wearing masks is required, something no one really loves, but "it's just habit now," Shere said.

Northeast Tech made a decision in May that it would use a block schedule. One group of students attend in-person classes on Monday and Tuesday. Another group attends in-person classes on Thursday and Friday. On all other days, students are in virtual learning, including Wednesday when there is no on-campus instruction.

"We have had staff and students that have had to quarantine, but it has been very minimal and has not affected operations," Shere said.

The school's goal is to keep having classes, even if that has to be all virtually, in the case that quarantines become necessary. Shere said the block schedule keeps class sizes to no more than 10; and with each class taking its 15-minute break at a different time, it keeps students from intermingling in the commons area.

Even if area schools are called off, "we would try to make an effort to stay open for our adults," Shere said. "They're trying to finish and go get jobs."

The small class sizes didn't prevent students who had been accepted to Northeast Tech from attending, Shere said.

"By switching to the (block) schedule we were able to serve the same amount, they're just here essentially half the time," Shere said.

The early decision by Northeast Technology district superintendent Roger Crutchfield to have a mix of virtual learning and in-person learning was important, Shere said. That allowed time to make sure students had the technology they needed to learn virtually, whether that was internet connections or computers. The early decision had another benefit: Instructors were able to develop online curriculums.

"The whole month of July our instructors were up here developing all of their online curriculum to be ready," Shere said. "That was a big pivot for them. Proud of the way they've done that."

The school added two new instructional services coordinators during summer to provide support to teachers making the transition to online classes, Shere said.

Even with that planning, the school year has required continual adapting. Like with other educational formats, some students thrive and some students struggle, Shere said. That's been the case with virtual learning; and after about six weeks, the school decided to open its academic resource center (assuming no overcrowding) to students who might need help on their virtual learning days.

"That gives them another way to get that virtual work done," she said. "If they just need a little support, just need a quiet place because home is crazy or whatever, we've done that, too.

"We have a variety of staff that will go in and help in there when needed."

Another part of adapting is recruitment efforts. In a normal year, Northeast Tech would be having its annual Sophomore Showcase, when hundreds of sophomores from schools in the area could tour facilities, meet instructors and see classes in session.

That's not happening right now, but the need for students next year hasn't changed. So, recruiting efforts are "school by school and seeing what they'll allow us to do," Shere said. "There are some schools where our student advisors will not be able to go into the school and talk to the students in-person and some schools that will still bring students to our campuses for tours."

Northeast Tech used video to recruit, including Facebook live events in which prospective students can see five to 10 minutes of a class. Shere said the school also is using direct mail.

While the school year hasn't been ideal, Shere said everyone continues to adapt to try and make the best of the situation.

"I think our students and our instructors and our staff are doing a great job given the challenges of this school year," she said.

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