Teacher and mom create ‘iPad School’ for preschooler who can't attend school

School has looked a little different for Elke Kliewer lately, but that hasn’t dampened her passion for the classroom. 

“She gets really excited about it in the morning,” her mom, Stephanie Kliewer said. “She’ll wake up and say ‘iPad school, iPad school!’”

For the past several months, Elke has been joining her preschool classmates at Lopez Elementary School on an iPad screen instead of in person. That’s because the three-year-old has a rare medical condition that makes respiratory infections especially dangerous for her. So, this winter, after a stay in the hospital, her mom and doctors decided it would be best for Elke to stay at home for the rest of the cold and flu season.

Elke attends preschool at Lopez via iPad
Elke attends preschool at Lopez with the help of an iPad.

But Kliewer and Elke’s teacher, Tracy Kelley, worried about her missing the classroom experience. They wanted to make sure she could participate in class activities and see her friends every day, and that she could jump right back in when she returns to the classroom this spring.

So, they devised a creative solution: “iPad school.”

Every week, Kelley carefully plans out what objects and worksheets she’ll be using in class and loads up her car up with duplicates for Elke. This means, Elke can do the exact same activities as her classmates, even though she’s at home.

“She feels included enough to where she doesn’t miss the classroom the way she did before we started (iPad School),” Stephanie Kliewer said, adding that before she and Kelley developed iPad School, Elke had been “despondent,” and missed her friends.

It took students in Elke’s classmates a few days to adjust to seeing their friend on a small screen, but Kelley said they caught on quickly. They even want to bring Elke out for recess, she said, and they like to take Elke’s iPad around the classroom to make sure she doesn’t miss anything.

A classmate of Elke shows her his tiger via iPad
One of Elke's friends shows her his tiger via iPad.

Keeping Elke in school – in her own classroom, even when she couldn’t physically be there – means that when she returns in the spring, it will be easier for her to pick up where she left off.

“It’s been a life saver for us,” Kliewer said. “It’s kept her in the loop and socially engaged … She feels that sense of belonging.”