Distance Learning
September 28, 2020

How We’re Helping Distance Learning Students

While Renton Prep is reopening our campus this fall, our families still have the option of distance learning. This poses an important question for us: How can our teachers and faculty support students in distance learning equally to those in the classroom? Fortunately, our experience with remote learning in the spring has put us in a position to support our students through technology.

In addition, an entire summer and having teachers return to campus in advance for professional development and planning gave plenty of time to thoroughly prepare for students to be fully remote learning. We want our families to feel fully comfortable with their students learning from home if they choose that option.

Before our school opening, we’ve put several new policies and tools into place to keep these students engaged in class. Based on the spring, we feel confident that students can continue their education seamlessly through distance learning.

Microsoft Teams and Distance Learning Tools

How do we go from a curriculum that is highly interactive and experiential learning to completely behind screens? First and foremost, we are using Microsoft Teams to stay connected, as a simulation for the real interactions. This way, we can continue to interact dynamically with video calls, small group discussions, comments from classmates, and designing projects that work for remote students.

An example from spring 2020: we live-streamed a documentary using Microsoft Live Event to grades 5-10. In this event, students viewed and shared the film together and get a common experience, even at a distance. Discussions happened in small groups in Microsoft Teams where educators could join in and listen, gauging comprehension understanding. Students also were able to send messages to their teachers via Microsoft Teams.

For early childhood classes, we have the ability to allow screen sharing or live stream a book reading to keep them connected. These are experiences that can be adapted from face-to-face to remote.

Adding a Distance Learning Instructor

Previously, our on-site teacher was the only resource for students to go to. While their curriculum design will still include projects to make learning relevant for all students, we have included more staff to support distance learning students in 2020. In addition to the face-to-face classroom instructor, we will have a dedicated online teacher that will be involved in all course work.

With this online instructor, remote students will have an opportunity to work ahead on core content with proper planning.

Renton Prep will also have a support liaison who will bridge between in-person school, online, and family learning environments. This member of our team will ensure a streamlined curriculum across all parts of our classroom.

Rapid Transition between Curricula

Renton Prep has established plans for rapid transitions between face-to-face and continuous remote learning. This is possible by having the same core content curriculum that will be for all students whether they elect to be fully remote or in-person.

This is based on our partnership with Red Comet and Florida Virtual Schools, which share the same accreditation by Cognia and are approved by OSPI. This will allow for rapid shift between formats while allowing a cohesive, consistent progression of core content.

We have built a more streamlined and sustainable continuous remote learning model that will be ready to be deployed if schools are required to be closed for long periods of time and for those families who wish to be 100% remote.

Emphasis on Social and Emotional Learning

Social and emotional learning will be a critical component of keeping students on track this year. We want every student to feel engaged, seen, and heard — especially if they are learning fully remotely. Therefore, every part of our distance learning curriculum is aimed at bringing out the social and emotional impact.

It’s our goal to build relationships between students and teachers. We do this with 1-on-1 calls, video calls with the class, and participating in classroom activities. We’re looking toward sustainability so that it’s not just a single check-in with a student. Instead, we’ll implement social and emotional learning in every activity, meeting, and discussion with students so they feel heard.

2020 Theme: Evidence of Humans

This school year’s theme will tie us all together by each of our individual experiences through concepts in science, math, and computer science. How do you know someone is there when you can’t see them? When you are in person, there’s a social distance mandate and face masks hide faces. How can we truly see each other? While everything has changed in 2020, things still remain the same in one way: there is evidence of us everywhere.

Behind this idea is the critical point that even though we may be distant, our students have our support. We’ll be looking at ideas of engineering and design, exploring, building shelter, and where we’re learning from right now. This close observation will translate to conversations together, language arts projects, and art created from seeing the places around us.

A Plan for Every Student

Our top priority is to make students and parents comfortable with their student’s learning experience at Renton Prep. Whether you’re distance learning or coming back to the physical classroom, we are so excited for the year ahead. If you have any further questions about returning to class, our distance learning strategies, or anything else, do not hesitate to contact us.