by, Jonathan Beckmann
Asst. Head of School
It may seem like the pandemic took us completely by surprise. In early January, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 virus a global health emergency, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health started to focus most of its resources on this emerging catastrophe.
Throughout February, the news kept getting more and more grim. Cases began appearing in the U.S. in patients with no travel history. The signs were pointing to a crisis, and we followed the news very closely. We were privy to weekly calls with LA County Public Health and started to plan for the unimaginable.
In those early days, we anticipated a remote learning scenario and began researching various online teaching tools or communication apps that would allow us to continue teaching even if we were forced to shut down the campus. Our IT provider, SimplicIT, as well as our friends at Planet Bravo each gave us good advice.
We selected SeeSaw for the lower grades (K-3) and Google Classroom for grades 4-6. Each of those platforms had advantages and disadvantages.
The only thing we knew for sure is that it was going to be a learning curve for everyone.
I’m amazed that the teachers adapted so quickly and — seemingly — so effortlessly. They are professionals, of course, and have the ability to engage students (whether in person or on-screen), so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but I still know it was a series of unusual hoops they had to jump through, and they came through with flying colors.
To maintain a degree of normalcy by allowing the children to see familiar faces from school, several members of the faculty made videos of read-alouds, cooking demonstrations, workout and even yoga videos. In my case, I thought it would be fun to make a series called “Math Trivia Time” (see examples above).
The children surprised me more than anyone. They say the younger one is, the more adaptable they are, and some students really thrived in this new model. Yes, others found it more challenging, but overall, I was really pleased to see that the kids were able to put one of our favorite Virtues & Values into practice: Flexibility!
As the school year came to an end and a new year started, we reflected and retooled our learning platforms to optimize and streamline the experience for all students. We purchased new devices and held material day pick-ups to ensure all students had the necessary supplies for At-Home Learning.
As time went on, we had two main goals: Keep the learning on the same level and at the same pace that we’d expect in a normal year, and maintain the same culture and community feel that we’re used to. (Or at least try to get as close as we can on both counts.)
So to say the pandemic took us by surprise is not completely accurate. We saw warning signs and we got prepared. Our success hinged on community support and flexibility. Looking back, Ilene and I are grateful to the teachers for pulling it off and the parents and students for their patience and wherewithal while making so many accommodations. We know it wasn’t easy for anyone.
I hope we don’t have to face more tests like this as a community, but I’m confident that, if we do, the theme “Stronger Together” will pull us through.