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Remote Learning in Action: Oxford Public Schools

Oxford Public Schools
(Image credit: Oxford Public Schools)

Remote Learning in Action is a new series of articles from attendees and speakers of Tech & Learning's events. Click here to learn more about these events and to apply to attend.

Where: Oxford Public Schools, Oxford, Connecticut

Who: Robert Miller, Assistant Superintendent for Business, Human Resources, and Operations, Oxford Public Schools

We are a small district in Connecticut with four schools: a K-2, 3-5, middle school, and high school. On March 9 we began to learn that within the next couple weeks we may need to consider shutting down physical schools. By March 11 we planned a professional learning day for the following week to prepare our staff to teach online. 

By March 12 it became apparent that the state of Connecticut was preparing to shut down all schools by Monday, March 16. At that time, we accelerated our plans even further. We scrambled our IT staff with some Custodial and school staff to take apart Chromebook carts. On Friday, March 13, we sent home just over 1,300 Chromebooks with students in grades 3-12. Students in grades K-2 were sent home "learning packets" with materials to use for up to 10 school days. 

Our plan to have a professional learning day was moved up to  March 16, however changes to our plans were required as new information from the state was released to us. We shut down all schools for public access on March 16 and asked every staff member to report in to pick up a Chromebook. March 16 became a non-school day.

On March 17, we held a virtual all district professional learning and preparation day. This included a virtual keynote address by the Superintendent, Assistant Superintendent, and Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. All teaching staff, related services, and paraprofessionals prepared to open e-learning on March 18, which we did with a delayed opening for our students. We viewed March 18 as a new first day of school and wanted to give our students an opportunity to become familiarized with the new learning environment and tools.

In grades 3-12, students experience a scheduled day for learning from 9 am to 1 pm. Students rotate through a schedule similar to what they would go through in a normal school day. Teachers engage students in both synchronous and asynchronous learning, and meet with their students using Google Meet and Zoom. One-on-one and group sessions for related services are provided via video conferencing followed by independent practice by students. Paraprofessionals attend virtual classes and are available to provide direct support to their students during the class or afterwards. 

Teachers are using Google Slides and other visual methods to teach their students in real time. Students have opportunities to ask questions and the full class is able to hear what the question and answer is. Students are also provided time to have group discussions. What we are seeing virtually mirrors the teaching students would be experiencing in a physical classroom. Our teaching is organized district wide around Google Classroom.

In grades K-2 we began with learning packets and are now shifting to resources through Google Classroom. Up to this point teachers have recorded and sent parents an opening 15-20 minute morning video and end of the day video for their students to watch. Paraprofessionals have connected with students to provide remote support. Students are receiving stories read to them by teachers and paraprofessionals. Some students even celebrated their first virtual birthday party recently.

Oxford has a webpage dedicated to remote learning, featuring updates and scheduled hours for elearning.