Lessons Learned from Spring 2020 School Closure
We learned many lessons during the Spring 2020 school closure through individual experiences reported to us, multilingual and English community town halls, feedback from weekly Principal and Cabinet team meetings, and through extensive surveys of families, students, and staff. These lessons are informing the design of our learning plans for the 2020-21 school year.
- Students crave daily face-to-face contact (either in person or video) with their teachers and peers to support their social emotional well being and to maximize their academic progress.
- Students and families need reliable internet connectivity and devices that will allow them to participate fully in any online/virtual learning. In addition, assignments that require families to print documents for their child creates a heavy burden and also surfaces an equity issue around access to printers.
- Students and families benefit from fewer digital platforms that require a single sign-on, rather than remembering multiple usernames and passwords.
- Students and families have also asked for training on the specific platforms and applications, to facilitate access and maximize learning.
- Families and students need to have a weekly schedule provided in advance that shows the daily classes and activities students are expected to participate in.
- Students benefit from having clear expectations about attendance, and how assessment and grading will be done.
- Families, students, and staff need a defined suite of communication tools that allows for consistent and seamless communication in multiple languages and in multiple ways (i.e. texts, emails, direct messaging)
- Given that many students, families, and staff have experienced hardships during the pandemic and closure, a variety of social emotional and mental health supports are needed. For example, some may benefit most from embedded social emotional learning (SEL) in classroom structures, while others may be best supported through discrete tele-counseling services -- all depending upon the level of trauma and transition.
- Small group and individual instruction are powerful ways to build relationships and provide targeted instruction, in addition to the use of full group learning. As an example, we found that providing just ten 30-minute sessions of 1:1 reading instruction for struggling grade 1-3 students enabled students to make good progress and to be more engaged in their learning.
- Individual students have varied reactions and experiences to learning remotely. Some thrive in the chance to set their own schedules and pace, others require step-by-step instructions and a regular presence of an adult, and others can shut down entirely in the absence of a regular community of peers with whom to interact. We found that younger students had an especially difficult time staying focused and engaged during longer periods of live instruction or independent work, requiring more adult support. Home settings also vary and can impact a student’s ability to be able to engage fully. Some have shared living spaces or may be taking care of younger siblings or an ill adult family member, making a balance of synchronous and asynchronous remote learning as well as flexibility important components of a remote learning environment.
- Any asynchronous work that a student is required to do needs to be designed in a way that students of different abilities and skills can access independently and require minimal at-home adult support, and may require us to supply students with the materials for them to complete this work. Some students don’t have yards to explore, for example, so offering alternative and flexible suggestions to complete independent assignments is important.
- Staff members need high quality structured time to collaborate with each other to plan effective remote lessons and to develop supportive plans for struggling students.
- Staff members need high quality professional development to implement engaging and effective synchronous/live instruction and asynchronous lessons.