Central choir’s plans to safely resume in person classes

With students returning to class in person, the Central choir classes have had to make many changes. Sara Cowan is one of the choir teachers at Central who teaches several of these choirs. She has been working on making the experience safe for her choir students by following specific guidelines as well as keeping students engaged and social through certain apps on the new school-issued iPads.


The Omaha Public Schools district is having choir classes follow guidelines from multiple studies. “We are especially following a study published by the university of Colorado. It states that if every singer is masked, at least six feet apart and singing for thirty minutes or less, then it will be relatively safe,” states Cowan.


Because of Central’s classes being split between students who are online and students who are in person, the idea of how to connect the students online with the students in person has been a continuing discussion among students and teachers. “A choir is just not a choir without everyone who’s in that group together,” says Cowan, “In the 3/2 model there are some days and choirs where I will have six or seven students in the room and the rest will be virtual and other days where I’ll have twenty students in the room and everyone else will be virtual.”


Because of this disconnect between students returning to school and those who are staying home, Cowan has been communicating with her classes to come up with ideas on how they can all stay connected. “A lot of the ideas on how to connect the students have actually come from the students themselves,” says Cowan, “I know that in choir the team-building and social aspect is really important, maybe more than other classes.”


“I’ve been thinking about how we can connect students as well and I think that some online tools like Padlet and breakout rooms are good for kids to share and get to know each other,” Cowan said, “Flipgrid is a tool I’ve already been using with things like singing assignments and it may be a place where we can talk to each other.“


Assignments have also been a change in the way that Cowan teaches her classes. “Most years in choir I don’t give homework because all of our work is in class and then, because I ask my students to come to concerts, there’s a little bit of commitment outside of class time,” explains Cowan, “But obviously I’ve had to give some homework in this setting because I have less time with my students, and I need them to turn things in rather that doing assessments in the classroom like we are used to.”


“We also want to work more on music theory and really building those theory skills,” said Cowan. “I got this advice a lot early on, which is great, but to me it’s really important that students get the opportunity to sing because nobody signs up for choir just because they want to be good at music theory. Of course music theory is important, and it is going to make you a better singer, but I know that students really want to sing, so that’s going to be my second priority after safety.”