My turn, Lynn Moody: Rowan-Salisbury’s preparation ensured schools were ready for closure

Published 11:29 pm Saturday, April 4, 2020

By Lynn Moody

As difficult as it was to receive the order to close schools, I knew in my heart that we had the key tools in place to continue serving our children with meals and learning.

The conversations with my team were centered around being quick not perfect. It is important to understand that, through the years, we have focused on preparing students for a globally-center world that included embracing digital innovation.

In 2014, Rowan-Salisbury Schools adopted one-to-one technology. All students received a device for school and home use in grades 3-12, with K-2 students using devices only at school. By making this investment in Apple, it gave students and staff the ability to use devices with or without internet access to do their work, including to create videos, projects and digital products. So, we are fortunate to have the advantage of more than five year’s if experience to practice thinking, working, learning and communicating differently.

Through the support of our community, we offered Wi-Fi hotspots to students.  A recent partnership with Sprint’s “1 Million Project” provides hotspots for high school students. Most software purchased can be used without internet.

JAMF, a software for the Apple platform, allows us to remotely download curriculum and applications to all devices.

Canvas allows teachers to remotely communicate with students providing virtual instruction. 

Remind and Class Dojo are digital tools to communicate and connect safely with families.

It was critical to find key instructional partners who genuinely care for our students and staff and support online learning.

Discovery Education led the way through streaming educational videos, techbooks and professional development. Achieve 3000, Raz Kids, Big Universe, Freckle, Edmentum, Mathspace, and Newsela are all familiar online tools used by students, staff and families.

Through Apple, we secured apps to provide specialized instruction and professional development.

In 2016 we created a work-from-home option for staff during inclement weather days.

In 2017 educators created e-learning days for students and soon implemented Zoom video conferencing for quick meetings and announcements. 

In 2018 we became the first Renewal School System in North Carolina that allows us to continue reshaping education and removing boundaries that limit creative thinking. It helped us create a mindset shift for change and innovation in non-traditional ways.

When March 14th hit, we were ready to make the transition from working and learning at school to working and e-learning at home. As this life change happened abruptly, new levels of stress arrived and families juggled the demands of wearing many different hats. The challenges with daily on-going instruction are exhausting for staff and parents.

We know remote teaching every day is not the same as an occasional e-learning day. Our epiphany was that practices and pace must change. We always knew that true learning was not about subjects or courses; our beliefs have never been tested so dramatically true before as they are now. 

Grading conversations accelerated as we visited other schools and learned about competency-based education. With the waiver from standardized testing, we can finally say to teachers, “stop worrying about the test and think about what children need.” 

We have challenges in assuring that all children are being reached and educated. Not all children have parents willing to co-teach at home with us. Not all children are responding to virtual instruction. 

How do we provide support to children who do not have any support? When we are in school, we know who they are and can bridge their needs. Now we may not be able to connect with them at all.

The social and emotional well-being of students remain a major concern. Even in the most stable homes, parents and children worry about their health and safety. Depression and anxiety set in for everyone.   Families with special needs children do not have the relief and support our schools provide, and our need to nurture and connect with children leaves us feeling truly isolated.

Teams have been meeting around the clock, and quiet people have found their voices. We have seen staff step forward to take the lead in feeding children who previously provided services with little recognition.  We have watched dedicated staff drop their titles at the door and dig into finding solutions. 

The words “thank you” have become the most frequently used words in my vocabulary.

Professional development has skyrocketed, with a variety of opportunities for classified and certified staff. Our RSS experts share their expertise while staff learn at home.

Our Staff Remote Learning Professional Development model has been shared with the state and educators from other districts have joined in some of the webinars. Now we are getting bold and asking famous educators to host a webinars. 

I desperately want to see our children come back to school! I miss the social interactions and human connections. I am so proud of staff!  When we return, we will be stronger and more student centered than even before.

Lynn Moody is superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools.