Why It’s Newsworthy: An agriculture teacher at East Jackson Comprehensive High School found an innovative way to make sure his students’ hard work will still reach the community despite COVID-19 cutting the semester short.
An initial statement came out on Feb. 28 from Jackson County Schools Superintendent April Howard concerning coronavirus.
Less than two weeks later, it was announced that Jackson County Schools were closed, and updates on how long they will be closed keep being posted on their website.
East Jackson Comprehensive High School’s Principal Chanda Palmer said that in the time span of 24 hours, East Jackson High School’s staff members got Chromebooks handed out to 1,300 students for online learning.
“It was a massive effort from our technology specialists and English department,” she said. “They made it happen.”
Online learning began, and the idea of those special events that happen during the last half of the school year possibly being canceled began to sink in.
Among those events to possibly be canceled was a plant sale East Jackson Comprehensive High School usually puts on in April. Hundreds of students in the horticulture and agriculture program work in the greenhouse throughout the school year to prepare for it.
“They typically order a significant amount of plants in the early part of the year and then the students participate in taking care of them and getting them ready for sale,” Palmer said.
Students were in the process of doing that when they had to switch to online learning.
It was Felipe Pedraza, the agriculture teacher, who had the idea of putting together East Jackson Comprehensive High School’s first online plant sale. His plan makes sure that there is little human interaction to comply with social distancing.
East Jackson High School agriculture students are taking an innovative approach to selling their plants amid the #Coronavirus outbreak. Grady Newsource Reporter Ashley Carter shares how they’re helping customers avoid large gatherings. #CoronavirusOutbreak pic.twitter.com/u8XWBfpPxx
— Grady Newsource (@GradyNewsource) March 30, 2020
Palmer said teachers are working so hard—well over eight hours a day—and Pedraza is no exception.
She said for the past two weeks, he has been taking care of those plants, and that’s a lot because during a typical day he would see more than 100 students who were helping and learning along the way.
His innovative idea of creating a safe alternative for the plants to find homes has been put into action. Pick-up for those who have placed orders started this week.
Palmer said for the community, it gives them a chance to get plants, get outside for fresh air and exercise. She said she is excited East Jackson Comprehensive High School can provide that experience to the community, but also to the students who were growing the plants.
She said she has never seen what we are facing right now with COVID-19 in her time as a principal, but she is blessed to work with a staff that is incredibly good at what they do.
With all of Georgia’s K-12 schools closed for the rest of the school year under the order of Gov. Brian Kemp, Palmer said she could not ask her teachers to be doing better than what they are doing.
Her teachers have been creative in finding ways, especially in performance-based classes, to continue to give students real-world, authentic learning experiences.
East Jackson Comprehensive High School’s first online plant sale is an example of that.
Palmer’s pick-up time is today for her plants, and she said she is looking forward to it.
Ashley Carter is a senior in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.
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