Online Learning at Neshaminy? We Got This!

The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic may have put the brakes on a tra­di­tion­al school year at Neshaminy, but the learn­ing con­tin­ued almost imme­di­ate­ly as the District quick­ly moved the cur­ricu­lum online.

With lit­tle warn­ing, all Bucks County schools closed on Friday, March 13. Shortly after, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf ordered all schools in the Commonwealth closed, and even­tu­al­ly extend­ed that clo­sure to the entire school year.

The Neshaminy Curriculum & Instruction Department jumped into action imme­di­ate­ly, devel­op­ing and imple­ment­ing a phased plan to move instruc­tion online. By Monday, March 16, Phase I was post­ed offer­ing “Broad explorato­ry learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties” in the form of links and activ­i­ties that could be com­plet­ed at home. On March 23, Phase II was imple­ment­ed, which expand­ed activ­i­ties with grade-specific con­tent and course-specific learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties.

Students in grades 5–12 already had take-home Chromebooks as part of Neshaminy’s expand­ing 1:1 Technology Initiative. During the first two weeks of the clo­sure, the Technology Services Department dis­trib­uted thou­sands of addi­tion­al Chromebooks tak­en from class­room carts for stu­dents in grades K‑4 and 11–12. Families reg­is­tered online to receive their Chromebooks, and picked them up at Neshaminy High School (while stay­ing social­ly dis­tanced). In addi­tion, they also set up a Chromebook repair ser­vice that will be oper­at­ed through­out the clo­sure while main­tain­ing safe dis­tanc­ing pro­ce­dures.

Technology staff handing out Chromebooks

The Neshaminy Technology staff hands out Chromebooks at Neshaminy HS

Over the past sev­er­al years, Neshaminy has invest­ed heav­i­ly in edu­ca­tion­al tech­nol­o­gy, in online edu­ca­tion­al appli­ca­tions, hard­ware (Chromebooks) and net­work upgrades. This gave stu­dents an advan­tage, since they are already used to work­ing online using a vari­ety of edu­ca­tion­al apps and resources. The District added Canvas, an online learn­ing man­age­ment sys­tem used in the mid­dle schools and high school, to the ele­men­tary grades. Canvas offers teach­ers many tools to plan their lessons online, track stu­dent progress and com­mu­ni­cate with their stu­dents and their par­ents or guardians. Extending this tool to the ele­men­tary grades offers con­sis­ten­cy across the District, and a way to orga­nize mul­ti­ple apps and resources for stu­dents in one place.

Canvas screenshot showing application windows

Canvas screen­shot for third grade appli­ca­tions

The goals of Online Learning at Neshaminy dur­ing the COVID-19 cri­sis are:

  • No stu­dent suf­fers a long-term neg­a­tive edu­ca­tion­al impact
  • A phased instruc­tion­al pro­gram roll-out
  • The con­tin­u­a­tion of Neshaminy cur­ricu­lum
  • The con­tin­u­a­tion of indi­vid­ual classroom/course struc­tures
  • The flex­i­bil­i­ty to accom­mo­date for indi­vid­ual student/family cir­cum­stances dur­ing the pan­dem­ic
  • Equitable access for stu­dents

Neshaminy teach­ers, admin­is­tra­tors and coun­selors worked for weeks fol­low­ing the clo­sure by phone, Zoom con­fer­ences, Google Docs and email across the District to devel­op Phase III of the plan, which meets all of these cri­te­ria. This phase was launched on Monday, April 13, and is the first where all stu­dents are expect­ed to par­tic­i­pate every school day, and their work counts toward grade-level require­ments.  Teachers cus­tomized les­son plans for their class­es and indi­vid­ual stu­dents. Programs for gift­ed and spe­cial needs stu­dents were devel­oped and imple­ment­ed at the same time to meet their needs. Students are even offered lessons and activ­i­ties for “spe­cials”  such as art, phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion and music.

Teacher meeting Zoom application

Elementary teach­ers meet­ing on a Zoom webi­nar

Using edu­ca­tion­al appli­ca­tions such as WeVideo, Clever, Flipgrid and Nearpod, teach­ers are find­ing inno­v­a­tive ways to reach their stu­dents. Many record short videos to share every­thing from math and sci­ence demon­stra­tions to yoga class­es. The learn­ing is “asyn­chro­nous,” mean­ing that stu­dents can log in when­ev­er they want dur­ing the day and com­plete the lessons at their own pace. Teachers are avail­able for help and video con­fer­ences, and mon­i­tor stu­dent progress through Canvas and the edu­ca­tion­al appli­ca­tions.

While both staff and stu­dents are eager to return to the class­rooms, gym­na­si­ums, audi­to­ri­ums, ath­let­ic fields and play­grounds as soon as is safe­ly pos­si­ble, Neshaminy is ready to han­dle what­ev­er chal­lenges may arise as the COVID-19 out­break plays out. The schools build­ings might be on hold, but the learn­ing will car­ry on.

For more infor­ma­tion, please vis­it the Neshaminy COVID-19 web­site:

www.neshaminy.org/covid-19

Online Learning Banner kids working on computers We Got This logo