COVID-19 and Our Remote Learning Journey
In the face of the unprecedented situation caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, schooling as we know it has changed overnight. We have had to launch a new school design, contemplating the immense challenges kids, families, and staff now face in these uncertain times, while striving to deliver on our promise of world-class, next-generation education to our students and families.
It has been incredible to see our Zeta community come together to rise to the challenge of ensuring that children can continue their educational journeys while learning from home. We are hopeful that we can be back in schools as soon as possible, when it becomes safe for all to reconvene. In the meantime, we are committed to continuously improving the ways to ensure that students make meaningful academic gains while maintaining strong social-emotional wellbeing at home.
We launched our remote learning for K-2 on March 16th and continue to evolve our model.
Our remote school model is focused on advancing meaningful student growth and progress to meet and exceed grade-level standards.
The aims of our remote schooling program are to significantly increase student learning growth through targeted online learning instruction that aligns with our end-of-year goals and through significant opportunities for small- and large-group instruction while providing tutoring for all students who need it.
We are equally committed to the social-emotional wellbeing of our students and have implemented a system of individual check-ins and substantial supports for students and families to ensure that we remain focused on the whole child, especially during this challenging time.
Our advance preparation enabled us to launch remote learning the first day of our school building closures.
When news of the virus’ transmission in the United States began to circulate, Zeta’s academic and operations teams worked swiftly to create a plan for remote learning in the event that our schools were forced to close. To prepare for remote learning, we:
- Vetted and selected online reading and math programs to best ensure the continuity of learning for our students, including allowing progress monitoring by teachers
- Designed a clear plan for student learning, mapping out assignments to be completed each day
- Surveyed families to understand family technology and WiFi needs
- Purchased and distributed Chromebooks to all students without devices
- Trained teachers and families in person on remote learning technology (we had just finished training all of our families the day before we closed our school buildings!)
- Distributed detailed instructions on how to login and navigate the online learning apps
- Prepared and distributed backup printed work packets and workbooks by grade
- Worked with food, security, and janitorial vendors to ensure a smooth transition of services in the event of closure, and implemented thorough sanitization procedures for our school buildings
This extensive advance planning was key when Zeta was forced to close its school buildings in mid-March. Our preparation enabled us to launch remote learning the first day of our building closures.
In designing our remote schooling program, we took on many challenges unique to early elementary remote schooling.
There are a few unique challenges to early elementary remote learning that we have been tackling head-on:
- We know that it is generally challenging for parents to oversee their children’s learning throughout the day. Accordingly, students must be learning as independently as possible.
- At the same time, because we are currently serving children at the youngest elementary grades, kindergarten through 2nd grade, we need parental/family/adult involvement to set children up on the online apps each day and to make sure they are on task until they can learn to do so themselves.
- To help children become highly independent learners, we must tap into their intrinsic motivation and also select quality educational apps that are both engaging and challenging. This practical need for a high level of student independence is an excellent push since student independence in learning is, in any event, essential to set children up as lifelong learners.
- We felt strongly that we also needed to implement live video instruction in order to deliver key instruction and facilitate high-level discourse that students should experience during school. The big challenge was how to achieve quality learning through video instruction for our young students; this is a difficult arena for the youngest learners due to focus and remote classroom management issues. But to deliver high-quality instruction, it was key for us to take this on.