Remote learning part of the new normal in Arizona, elsewhere

Schools implement class time for students stuck at home

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With most schools in Arizona closed through April 10 due to the coronavirus, not all students are off the hook when it comes to class time.

Remote learning is becoming a part of the social distancing lives of students and school staff. Remote learning is a combination of digital instruction and at-home activities. Those who have attended online schools in the past likely know all about it.

But when it comes to public — and some private — schools in Arizona, students and teachers are likely scrambling to learn how they will have class from afar.

At All Saints’ Episcopal Day School in Phoenix, students and teachers haven’t missed a beat since the school decided to go to remote learning. The last in-class instruction was Friday, March 13, but there was no lag in class time. Students hit the books virtually on Monday, March 16.

“All Saints’ has done an amazing job jumping right into remote learning, which has been a huge relief for my husband and me,” said Jennifer Hipp, a parent of a kindergartner. “So many things feel uncertain right now. Knowing that my son continues to be connected with his teachers and has daily assignments really eases my mind and has been great for his emotional and mental well-being. The transition has been seamless. He is excited about completing his work every day — a true testament for how All Saints’ instills a love of learning.”

Each teacher there is finding what works for him or her to keep a school routine, said Andrew Cipriano, Head of Lower School. Many teams have a scheduled “meeting” time through video-conferencing platform Zoom to plan lessons collaboratively, and they do this at the same time every day.

“We also have set hours in the morning and afternoon for teachers to be responsive to parent and student questions,” Mr. Cipriano stated. “They manage student work throughout the day, answering questions and providing feedback on assignments that are submitted. They try to voice- or video-record some feedback or communication every day; to make sure students still feel a personal connection. We are also starting class meetings through Zoom so students can see their friends!”

On March 13, the school sent its 518 students home with individual devices and materials for hands-on assignments. After the weekend, remote learning began without delay.

“The administrative team, faculty, and staff are committed to providing an educational program that maintains our standard of excellence,” stated Dr. Emma Whitman, Head of School. “At All Saints’ the relationships the faculty have with the students are an incredible tool in the learning process. We will prioritize these continued relationships in our planning and process. We engaged in professional development and planning for weeks prior to the move to remote learning. It has always been our top priority to keep consistency in learning and be able to maintain our relationships with our students and families.”

While an outbreak like COVID-19 is hard to predict months in advance, the situation could lead to schools on a state and/or national level stepping up remote learning lessons in the event something like this were to happen again.

“Ultimately, there is nothing that can truly replace the connections that exist and grow when a community is physically together on campus,” Dr. Whitman stated. “This is why we have prioritized our focus on relationships between our students and our faculty. It is important to us that we continue our service-learning. Students are still engaging in our Life Skills program, under the leadership of our School Counselor and our student support services continue to be available.”

Dr. Whitman said administration prioritized continuity for students because they understand the value of routine, consistent support, and didn’t want the students to have a day without working with their teachers.

“We prioritize relationships at All Saints’ and we knew the teachers and students would need to jump into working together remotely as quickly as possible.”

Dan Waage, director of Enrollment Management, echoed Dr. Whitman, saying being able to have a system in place creates stability and emphasizes the important of school and learning.

“I think it might open some eyes as to the potential benefits of remote and online learning for some students,” Mr. Waage stated. “I do think having the capacity and the ability to deploy quickly was hugely beneficial.”

All lessons and assignments are posted by 8 a.m. each school day. Students are learning everything: math, reading, writing, science, music, art, Spanish, physical education, etc.

Even the Drama Club has moved to a remote practice format with teacher feedback.

“We don’t want students to be on their screens all day long so we worked to create the developmental appropriate amount of remote learning on the iPad, mixed with hands-on experiences, and social connection,” Dr. Whitman stated. “It is a constant work in progress but it is wonderful to see how hard everyone is working: faculty, parents, and students!”

School districts rising up

Some school districts and charter schools are also implementing remote learning capabilities for their students.

This week, the Deer Valley Unified School District informed parents and students of upcoming remote instruction time. The district plans to start Monday, April 6, but needs students and parents to take a survey by the end of March 27 so officials understand families’ access to technology.

Certified and some classified staff will be engaging in various training and planning activities between through April 3.

Until then, from March 30-April 3, students will have the option of extended and enrichment learning opportunities. They are not required, nor will they be used for grading purposes.

The Dysart Unified School District is moving to remote learning Monday, March 30. Students will be using Schoology, Google Classrooms and hard-copy packets. Lessons are required and will be graded.

Dysart has a limited number of Google Chromebooks that can be checked out by parents to assist with remote learning at home. Schools will share details with families regarding Chromebook pickup schedules and requirements for their campus. While not everyone has internet access at home, public WiFi is available at every Dysart school and facility parking lot.

Also, a number of Internet service providers have special offers right now. Visit www.bit.ly/internetaz and scroll all the way down to the Internet Resources section. Or, contact your local Cox, CommCast or CenturyLink office.

Already this week, some students in the Litchfield Elementary School District are keeping up with teachers while at home. Fourth graders at Belen Soto Elementary School in Goodyear used video-conferencing platform Zoom to receive instruction from their teachers.

The district is also offering K-8 supplemental work packets. They’re optional but parents should encourage children to do their best.

“The most important thing is that they stay safe and continue to practice the skills they have already learned,” according to the district website.

Nonprofit Common Sense recently launched two new webpages compiling resources for parents and educators with best practices for learning at home, keeping children supervised and engaged, safeguarding physical and mental wellness, and more.

The parenting page includes quality age-appropriate media and books lists; online resources for learning at home and homework help; guidance for understanding COVID-19 news coverage and helping children process what is happening; and how to stay calm with games and wellness apps.

The educator page provides tools and advice for virtual education, including student-led learning and virtual field trips; remote teaching resources for core subjects; tools for video collaboration, discussion and communicating with parents; strategies to ease stress and encourage learning; and more.

For students whose schools have not yet provided remote instruction but want to keep their brains fresh, the Arizona Department of Education also offers a running list of free learning resources for a variety of grades and subjects. Visit www.bit.ly/azedremote.

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