Remote Learning in Remote Nebraska

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“It is really weird walking around here. We're in April, and kids are supposed to be running through the halls," says Chris Kuncl, Mullen Public Schools superintendent. (Chris Kuncl photo)


Mullen High School teachers created this message for their students. English teacher Megan Andersen had her students keep journals about life during the COVID-19 shutdown. "They're all struggling and the biggest thing that they're struggling with is the normalcy," says Andersen, who is also Mullen's guidance counselor. "I think they all miss their friends a lot. That's definitely a theme that goes through all of their journals."

“In a matter of a few days, I had to completely kind of flip the way that I teach,” says Mullen Public Schools science teacher Sarah Hardin. “I think we’re in uncharted territory.”

“Remote Learning in Remote Nebraska,” tells the story of one school district’s transition to remote learning because of COVID-19. This new 30 minute NET Radio documentary is part of the NET “What If…” project on innovation and creativity in Nebraska.

The program focuses on how educators quickly came up with a remote learning plan, including deciding whether or not to grade work; creative and innovative ways teachers and parents engaged students; what it's like to be a graduating senior; and challenges, including limited WiFi, creating learning spaces at home and the lack of face-to-face connection.

“Even though you get to see them and you talk to them, it's different than being face to face," says Mullen elementary school teacher Melody McDowell. "There is a lot to communication that's not just words over a camera. You can tell how kid’s day is going when they walk in your classroom in the morning and you can't see that on a computer screen.”

"There are stories like this in school districts throughout Nebraska," says NET producer Mike Tobias. "In many ways Mullen’s story is also their story."

The program also provides a glimpse into life in the remote Sandhills region of Nebraska. The Mullen Public Schools district has 157 students in grades K-12. “Mullen is a huge district,” says Mullen superintendent Chris Kuncl. “We're bigger than the state of Rhode Island in our square mileage."


"Remote Learning in Remote Nebraska" is part of "What If..." the NET project on innovation and creativity in Nebraska. Watch "What If..." stories and learn more HERE.



NET News and our Harvest Public Media partners are reporting as part of the national “America Amplified: Election 2020” project that aims to listen to and amplify the voices of those in diverse communities across the nation. Learn more at and on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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