Throughout the pandemic, many educators have struggled with new ways of reaching students, managing content and communicating with parents and other stakeholders. Yet some have proven their fortitude and innovation through trailblazing efforts that have maintained the focus on the needs of students. This brief reflection is in honor of the successes we have collectively shared as an educational community. It is also written with hope for the future.
In my current district of Vernon, we have identified “COVID Keepers” and the access that technology can provide to assist families and students to be active participants in their educational communities. Here are just a few COVID Keepers that schools might consider keeping, as we continue to navigate through the pandemic and hopefully near its end, into a more stable future.
- Virtual IEP Meetings – the sole use of the virtual platform for teaching was something that some of the eduational community went into kicking and screaming. Delivering lessons on zoom, navigating through breakout rooms, and finding educational tools that could be leveraged virtually to engage students was a struggle. But the use of the virtual platform was a blessing as well. In Vernon, we distributed Kajeets (mobile hotspots) early on in the pandemic to ensure WiFi access for all students in our community. This allowed parents to be connected with our schools. Even with a return to live instruction in school this fall, (2021), the use of Virtual IEP Meetings has remained. Parents have the ability to attend from nearly anywhere, making meeting attendance accessible. Our attendance rate at meetings is 100%. This ensures that our Child Study Teams can meet in a timely manner, supporting our special needs population in an expeditious manner.
- Virtual Parent-Teacher Conferences – Vernon is a lovely community but can be quite far from where working parents commute for employment. We enjoy amazing hiking trails and a ski resort! Commuting for families, especially during what can sometimes be harsh winters is essential for working families. The use of virtual parent teacher conferences allow for communication between school and home in a safe, timely, accessible, confidential environment.
- Virtual Administrative Meetings – while the administrative team and I prefer to meet in person and will resume in person meetings in the near future, virtual meetings allow administrators to remain in their buildings, tending to emergent needs, student concerns, or staff assistance. This is beneficial because in a district with six schools, the virtual meeting limits travel between schools which can be a barrier during emergent situations.
- Schoology – During COVID, the district utilized Schoology as their primary learning platform for students. It includes classwork, notes, teacher presentations, videos, on-line assessment tools, and other important resources of an online classroom. While live instruciton is occurring so far this school year, the landing location of Schoology for students (and families) is a consisent location to find important class-related items for academic (as well as artistic and athletic) success.
It is my prediction that education will continue to evolve through the pandemic. The shifts we have made as an educational community were necessary to “get through” the challenges we were facing. However, now is the time to reimagine schools and schooling for the improvement of the structures that have historically been used in education. These include the societal, financial, and educational needs of students and families. I know I look forward to the evolution of education. The opportunities that school leaders have to influence positive change will be pivotal in the next phases of education as we know it.