Anne Arundel County private schools navigate remote learning as school closures extend due to coronavirus

By NAOMI HARRIS CAPITAL GAZETTE NEWS
As schools across the state extend closures for another four weeks in response to slow the spread of coronavirus, Anne Arundel County private schools like St. Mary’s and Indian Creek continue distance learning.

In Maryland, there were at least 1,239 total confirmed cases of the new coronavirus as of Sunday. Ninety-nine of them were in Anne Arundel, which had its first coronavirus-related death over the weekend.

Indian Creek started a virtual school yesterday and will host two sessions, the first began Wednesday and goes to April 10 and the next from April 14 to May 1.

The development of virtual school materials and platforms was a relatively easy transition as the school has used blending learning since 2013, said Director of Teaching and Learning Sarah Allen. Along with creating developmentally appropriate materials for students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, the online learning relies on similar technology students have used previously.  “We wanted to use familiar tech tools because we know using a technology tool is like learning to read,” she said.

Indian Creek is accredited by the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, which provides oversight to ensure that independent school curriculum meets national and state standards, said Tiffany McCormick, director of communications. The Indian Creek oversight committee has set guidelines for faculty to keep simple, equitable, and achievable goals for this virtual environment. The school’s partners at AIMS are working with the Maryland State Department of Education to ensure that the curriculum continues to meet and exceed state standards.

Teachers from pre-kindergarten to third grade are using tools like Microsoft Sway, which uses media and text, as well as Seesaw so that students can record or upload photos of work for educators to review and offer feedback and email. Educators teaching fourth to 12th grade, focus on using the school’s learning management system and Microsoft Team, a collaborative and video conference tool.

At the heart of it all, educators at Indian Creek will still provide what is called asynchronous and synchronous learning so that students can learn at an individual level while coming back for group learning, McCormick said. “This is such an unusual circumstance for our kids, teachers and parents but allows families the flexibility through the asynchronous learning. So we wanted to make sure they would be able to complete the work but at their own pace and at their own timing,” she said.

Educators were also provided professional development to understand how instruction time could work while trying out different tools to adapt to their own curriculum. Becca Derry, a humanities teacher for the upper school at Indian Creek, said her instruction videos have been watched over 50 times and 75% of her students have submitted ideas on how to make their virtual learning more successful. “I’ve been blown away so far by how many of our students are engaged already,” she said in a statement.

Allen said that grading is still being explored. “As we look at grading and assessment we want to make sure we are focused centrally on student learning,” she said. “It is definitely top of mind but we are centrally focused on student learning.”

In the meantime, she said students are excited to wear their pajamas or listen to music as they attend school, all while staying at home.

Click here to read the full story, originally published in the Capital Gazette. 
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