Charting an Educational Course for Success in Choppy Pandemic Waters.

Marianthe Williams, School Administrator and Director of Technology for the River Dell Regional School District in Oradell, New Jersey, took a journey back in time to March of 2020 to help break down her district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Call it good fortune, or maybe just innovative planning, but the River Dell School District already created the environment and infrastructure to provide remote learning for students and teachers. So, when the pandemic hit, it was ahead of the curve. On March 11, it knew school closures were imminent, and Williams said the staff used a PD day to plan for online learning.

“We’re a Microsoft school,” Williams said. “So, we had all the 365 tools, years of PD with the HP device, and this was the game changer; everyone had a digital pen.”

With all of the digital tools in place, something the district was slowly rolling out, Microsoft Teams, kicked into high gear once things moved to remote learning.

Fast forward to the fall of 2020, and a new challenge emerged. Williams explained there was a combination of kids learning from home and kids learning in person. “Even though there’s a camera on your laptop, now there’s a barrier,” Williams said. “And everyone is six feet apart, and it’s much harder. You can’t just turn your laptop around.”

It was essential to make sure every student had a webcam to communicate with every student, whether in class or online.

One of the benefits of online learning Williams found is having one-on-one interactions between teachers and students. The situation was more manageable when everyone was doing online learning in the spring. This fall proved more challenging when teachers met new students with masks on their faces. “Even though you’re there, and there is a bond, there is a barrier too,” Williams said.

With her district’s ‘we got this’ mentality, Williams believes there are no obstacles it cannot overcome.

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