By Adam Hartley,
Fenton Area Public Schools superintendent
Building a plane in the air. While the task seems impossible, this is what educators across the state are doing as all school districts transitioned practically overnight to a remote learning platform.
On March 12, 2020 when Governor Whitmer announced the suspension of face-to-face instruction, the construction of each school district’s “plane” started simultaneously with its departure to, at that time, an unknown destination.
A key component to the plane school districts are building in the air, now known as our Continuous Learning Plan, is connecting with our learners via online through Zoom or Google Hangout. These applications have allowed educators to provide instruction, office hours and tutoring sessions using the internet and devices. This has already been a proven strategy for teaching and learning, creating a classroom atmosphere we have all taken for granted before now.
Just as we have worked hard to keep our staff and students safe within our classrooms, we have adjusted our focus to make sure our learners and our teachers understand both the benefits and the dangers of using online meeting applications.
We have reviewed our Acceptable Use Policies, trained the appropriate staff and continue to communicate the potential hazards of using online meeting applications. It is important that students, educators and families work together to ensure both the safety and the integrity of the classroom as we transition to the virtual world.
Fenton Area Public Schools, along with other local school districts, have taken great strides in creating a safety net to mitigate distractions and ensure our online meetings are focused on teaching and learning. These actions include students using school issued emails to login to online meetings, teachers using the virtual waiting room allowing only familiar people into the session, and reviewing the expectations of appropriate dress, location and behavior during an online meeting.
Building a plane in the air has not been easy for anyone within a school community. Transitioning from face-to-face instruction to teaching remotely is one of the biggest challenges our staff, students and families have faced and will face in the future. The good news is that once the plane is built, we can be assured it will fly through any dangers that come our way.