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When school was in session, Maxwell Ntalamu woke up, ate breakfast, got dressed and went to school. He had no choice but to do his school work.

Now, Ntalamu, a junior at Jefferson City High School, is having trouble staying motivated and focused at home where the allure of TV or going outside are sometimes too tempting.

"It's been kind of hard to keep the motivation going because you're not being forced to do anything, and so you kind of have to get yourself to go and do it," he said.

Staying motivated, focused and creating an educational structure is a challenge whether you are a student or an adult during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jefferson City School District switched to a grading system where the grade A student had before schools closed can only be raised, not lowered. However, AP and dual credit classes must continue with a normal grading system.

Ntalamu said his AP classes have helped him stay motivated because he's required to complete the work.

"It's helping me keep up with my other classes as well because I'll get to working and I'll be like, 'Well, I'm already doing my AP stuff, so I might as well do my regular classes,'" he said. "It's been hard, but I've been doing pretty well. It's been a learning process, but I'm adjusting."

Kiara Strayhorn, a sophomore at Capital City High School, said she likes being able to complete her work whenever she wants, but she misses her friends and finds it difficult not having teachers readily available to help.

"It's definitely a lot more challenging if you don't have your teachers there to ask questions and stuff, but I feel like it is good for all of us to have this experience because we're going to have to do stuff like this in college," she said.

Jonathan Scott, a senior at JCHS, said communication with his teachers is lacking, so he hasn't been able to get immediate feedback when he has a question. He said teachers are better able to teach concepts in person, and he misses the face-to-face interactions with teachers and peers.

"When you try to learn something that you have no idea how to approach, it's kind of challenging to get that feedback immediately so you are able to understand it," he said. "It makes it a little difficult when you do homework assignments."

Scott said remote learning has its challenges, but he enjoys having more freedom.

"It allows you to do other things in the day that I wouldn't be able to do if I was actually at school, and also it gives me more time to focus on certain classes rather than having to go to every single class every day," he said.

Remote learning hasn't been easy for adults, either.

Rebecca Wehmeyer has struggled with working from home while helping her three children with schoolwork. She has a sophomore, a fourth-grader and a first-grader. She said she spends about two hours a day helping with schoolwork, and she's managing it by taking breaks, going outside and not doing the optional work.

"It's definitely been kind of a tough balancing act," she said. "The beginning was definitely harder, but I think the last probably 10 days or so, for our family at least, we have started to find a routine that's been working."

Wehmeyer said her first-grader is having a difficult time learning from home. He has had a hard time focusing and would rather play with his toys or the dog, she said.

He also struggles with reading and writing, but his teacher helped him improve his reading this year.

"It just breaks my heart that he didn't get to finish the school year with her in person and continue that support that she was providing every day," Wehmeyer said.

She said the biggest challenge is feeling like she's not doing a good job teaching her children.

"I would say it's feeling like, 'Am I doing a disservice to my kids? Am I helping them the way that they need to be helped? Am I supporting them as we do this distance learning as much as I should be?'" she said. "That's probably my biggest concern is, are they going to be OK come August?"

Rhiannon McKee, a science teacher at JCHS, said many of her students are having a hard time staying motivated if they have a grade they're already happy with since their grade will not be lowered.

She also can no longer do labs in her classes, so it's been stripped down to basically just the content. She's worried the students won't remember the content without doing the labs.

"They're not going to have those experiences that help them remember them, so I do worry about that," she said. "They may be able to pass a quiz right now, but I'm not sure if they're going to be able to remember next year."

Allison Jolly, a second-grade teacher at Pioneer Trail Elementary School, has had to teach from home while taking care of her 3-year-old daughter and helping her son with his third-grade schoolwork.

She said she spends about three to four hours each day doing educational activities with her own children, and she spends about the same amount of time working.

Some of her students' parents are essential workers, so the students are staying home with their older siblings. It's a challenge to keep these children on a schedule and get them to complete their work, she said.

"We're trying to figure out all the ways families are struggling with how they care for their children and how we can provide learning for them while they're doing their jobs," she said.

Although there are challenges, Jolly said, it's been a great experience.

"I'm grateful for opportunities I would have never otherwise had," she said.

She gets to see her students' homes, pets and toys. She started show-and-share Wednesdays to keep the class community and relationships with her students strong.

"That's been something fun, and it's just a great way to connect with them on another level," she said. "And they get to see my house and me and my family and my kids that they hear me talk about — they pop in the videos. It's been a great way to just continue to build those relationships."

Jolly said she contacts every family at least once a week.

"I feel like I actually interact with parents more now than I did before the closure because we just want to make sure that we're still in contact and students know we care about them and we're thinking about them," Jolly said.

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