Tracking student participation in their online education is a nationwide concern in a new era of remote learning, but early numbers in the Campbell County School District are encouraging after one full week.

Deputy superintendent Kirby Eisenhaur told school board trustees this week that “many of our schools” are at 100%, while some absences have been recorded at secondary schools.

Both Campbell County and Thunder Basin high schools saw about 90% participation during the first week, according to their principals.

“The truth is, it’s been incredibly smooth,” said TBHS Principal Gib Ostheimer. “All the work that teachers and staff at Thunder Basin and at the district level have put into this was just tremendous.”

Ostheimer said he’s never satisfied with participation numbers unless they’re at 100%. He has 12 staff members “committed simply to chase kids” to ensure they’re attending school remotely.

The contact starts with an email, but Ostheimer said the belief at TBHS is that personal contact is best. Phone calls are preferred and the staff reached out to 86 students on Tuesday — a number Ostheimer expects to go decrease, but not disappear in the coming weeks.

“We put a tremendous amount of resources behind that. Every day I want to get better (with attendance),” Ostheimer said. “We have kids that we know are at risk and we’ll be making contact with those kids a couple of times a week no matter what.”

CCHS Principal Chad Bourgeois said the board of trustees has done a good job of staffing the two high schools almost identically and he’s doing the same to keep attendance high. When school is being taught on site, those staff members can knock on doors to track students down, but not anymore during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ostheimer admitted the uncertainty of remote learning made participation a concern going into the school’s Adaptive Learning Plan. He said it’s been hard to predict how it could be managed when some students live on a ranch and have to come into town on weekends to do homework or some don’t have internet access at all.

TBHS sent out 350 electronic tablets to its students, along with paper-and-pencil work to some. Similar efforts have been made at CCHS. But even with all the moving pieces at the high schools, Ostheimer and Bourgeois said are pleased with the process of remote learning so far.

The participation numbers are even better at the junior high level, though Sage Valley Principal Terry Quinn said that attendance and participation are tricky numbers to calculate out with online learning.

There are a couple of levels to participation. The first and most trackable level is if students are logging onto the platform to retrieve their work, while the next level is actually completing the work and turning it in.

The junior highs track each time students log in each day for their three lessons and Quinn said the participation rate is between 93% and 95% in the first week. Similar numbers have been seen at Twin Spruce Junior High.

That statistic also could be higher, though, because Quinn said some students know how to work Google Classroom well enough that they can access their schoolwork without logging into the SVJH site.

The participation number that Quinn could report with “absolute confidence” was within the staff in Campbell County.

“All 100% of teachers, the classified staff, the secretaries for Campbell County School district are giving their best to make this system work,” he said. “We have 100% participation by the employees. … They’re buzzing their hinies.”

The participation numbers at elementary schools have been nearly perfect so far. Out of 4,865 students, 4,840 have participated in the first week, Eisenhauer said. That’s a participation rate of 99.48%.

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