RENTON, Wash. — In March, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down schools nationwide. Five months later, Renton Prep Christian School in King County reopened, giving students the option for in-person learning. With extensive mitigation protocols in place, including daily health screenings, temperature checks, and contained cohorts, Renton Prep had zero cases of COVID-19 transmission and completed the Fall semester.
“The reopening plan went better than I could have hoped,” Renton Prep executive director Dr. Michelle Zimmerman said. “The structure allowed for students to accelerate in ways that we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise without the intense planning behind it.”
While students’ academic growth in many K-12 schools was stunted, several Renton Prep students accelerated their learning in the fall. With an expansive school reopening plan, Red Comet’s online learning platform, and committed teachers, students had the opportunity to move grade levels ahead.
Standardized testing showed nearly 50 percent of students in sixth through eighth grade at Renton Prep tested one or two grade levels above same-age peers tested before COVID-19. All ninth and 10th grade students were above grade level and added AP courses.
“That’s a huge difference from what a lot of other schools are doing — they are cutting back to sometimes half of the content,” Dr. Zimmerman said. “The partnership with Red Comet gave us the ability to personalize learning to allow kids who were ready to go ahead to keep moving.”
With sweeping classroom changes due to the pandemic inevitable, Renton Prep’s innovations will pave the way for future advancements.
In-person students live-streamed to remote students to work interactively on the same project. Teachers frequently live-streamed classroom activities via Microsoft Teams. Field trips — an important part of experiential learning — are live-streamed to remote learning students. Later in the semester, remote learning students could come to campus in micro-groups of five or less.
“We understand the importance of human interaction, that is what our school has always been about, then blending that with technology,” Dr. Zimmerman said. “These innovations become pilots for things that we can try on a broader scale in the future.”
As schools nationwide moved to remote learning, Renton Prep started working with a medical team and epidemiologist on a health-conscious reopening plan for the Fall semester.
The countermeasures recommended in November by the Institute for Disease Modeling to combat COVID-19 spread matched the thoroughly-researched plan in place at Renton Prep. A partnership with Ascend from Base Camp Health, a health screening app students were required to fill out daily, identified potential risks. Furthermore, teachers were consulted to make decisions about remote learning and returning to class.
“Every single step along the way, we left it open, giving teachers a chance to give feedback and be a part of focus groups,” Dr. Zimmerman said.
With Red Comet, overseeing remote and in-person students is effective. Red Comet provides course structure and grading, while Renton Prep teachers creatively deliver the content and connect with the students.
Ensuring a safe and health-conscious campus environment while still delivering a world-class education to our students was a top priority for the Fall semester.
Renton Prep is a Microsoft Showcase and a leader among Cognia STEM-certified schools, committed to integrating the best teaching and learning practices from research-based discoveries that are emerging from learning science fields.