FFA goes online in an instant


North Scott FFA students made the switch from live to online competition in a heartbeat, Saturday.

That adaptability will be critical to public education as some districts consider using online courses to complete a school year interrupted by COVID-19.

But these students say they’re not ready for their school year to end with online education.

About 35 North Scott high school and junior high students were to be among 1,000 gathering at Louisa-Muscatine High School Saturday for regional competition.

At 3:30 p.m. Friday, the FFA cancelled the event and moved it online.

At 8:30 a.m. Saturday, North Scott students gathered at the high school to make their presentations to i-Pads that streamed it to remote judges. District FFA director Jacob Hunter said the students accomplished what he expects will be the first of many such transitions.

“This shows how adaptable these students can be in a crisis,” Hunter said.

The students as individuals and teams shared research they’d intended to present on a stage before judges.

“At first we were freaking out. But then we figured it out,” Evelyn Bauer said.

She and two others presented on how to manage commercial food waste. One judge asked how the COVID-19 virus might impact their research. Their answer?

“It affects it a lot,” Haley Salyars said. Food banks rely on restaurant leftovers that are bound to diminish as customer counts drop.

Online forced other accommodations.

“My presentation roams around quite a bit. Here, we’re presenting to a camera three feet away. So I’m down to just hand gestures,” said Coryn Wilson.

Most of the students have experienced some form of online instruction. Still, they worried how their schooling will be affected by the virus that already scrapped spring break trips and plans.

Dylan Engelbrecht’s family cancelled their Punta Gorda, Fla., trip a day before their Saturday departure. But phone lines were jammed, so they had to visit the Moline airport Saturday to cancel the flight.

Instead of the beach, Engelbrecht spent Saturday coaching junior high students making their first FFA presentations.

Evelyn Bauer said some students initially joked about the virus threat. “That’s how teenagers cope these days. We’re joking and lighthearted. Then we hear stories about people fighting over toilet paper.”

A couple of the students work at North Scott Foods and saw examples of hoarding first hand.

Bauer is among those students not crazy about the possibility of online only school. “I don’t want online. I like to see my friends. School keeps me social.”

Rachel Costello said not all courses work online. “We’re building sheds in shop class. I’m not sure how I do that at home.”

Salyars said many students have limited, or no Internet access. “Some because parents say no and choose not to have it. Some can’t afford it,” she said.

Salyars is heading for Army basic training this summer. “It stresses me. I’m not sure where I’ll go now.”

She’s taking an online contemporary world issues class through Scott Community College. The course covers a lot of contemporary issues.  “All we’re talking about now is the virus,” she said.