With families stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, school districts had to adapt in order to continue providing students with a quality education.
Schools shifted their focus to the Internet, supplying students with assignments using programs such as Google Classroom, Google Hangouts, Seesaw, Flipgrid and more. This new approach became known as distance learning.
“As a district, we have been careful with our planning and deliberate in our approach to distance learning,” said RSD-13 Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Cori-Ann DiMaggio. “What we did is we planfully thought through the professional learning for teachers because we knew we were now in this for the marathon and not for the sprint.”
DiMaggio said the district tasked its instructional technology team with training teachers on a variety of distance learning tools.
According to Brenda Parness, PK-12 STEAM Coordinator for RSD-13 and a member of the instructional tech team, the transition was “very smooth.”
“We had one week to train and bring staff up to speed before we went live,” Parness said. “Overall we dealt with a few tech issues here and there, but for the most part I feel that staff were prepared when we went live.”
However, as time passed, and Gov. Ned Lamont closed schools for the remainder of the academic year, administrators had to bolster their distance learning resources.
This is what RSD-13 called Phase Two of its distance learning plan.
The district began Phase Two by reaching out to students and parents looking for feedback on what was working and what wasn’t when it came to dislearning.
A majority of students surveyed in grades 6-12 said their instruction across math, science, social studies and ELA was either good or excellent. Additionally, these students said that responsiveness from their teachers was “just right.”
“Currently, all of our middle and high school teachers are hosting office hours. In addition, we conducted a ‘live connections’ pilot with selected teachers in grades K-6,” DiMaggio explained. “We are pleased to report that the pilot was successful and the majority of students were able to connect and attend the classroom meetings.”
Students in grades 7-12 are using Chromebooks distributed by the school’s tech team to complete their work, while younger students are using whatever technology they have on hand to connect to the Internet.
Superintendent Dr. Kathryn Serino said the district has been doing “their very best” to continue to keep student-educator connections thriving during the pandemic.
“We have looked carefully at what the standards are that children should be engaged with and master at whatever level or grade they are in,” Serino said in an email. “When I tell you we are working every minute of the day to modify and adjust so that we meet two critical goals – maintaining a consistent connection with all students and providing students with the most engaging and appropriate learning – I mean it.”
Moving forward, Serino said she is confident in the ability of the district to effectively manage its learning plan.
DiMaggio agreed, citing impressive collaborations between teachers, students and parents.
“We really are working as a community to educate our children right now,” DiMaggio said. “I commend the parents and caregivers for the support they are giving to their children and the support they’ve shown to our teachers and staff throughout this process.”