Virtual Friday Schedule to Continue Through School Year
Posted by Stephanie Kessler on 3/16/2021
Rationale for Continued Implementation of the Virtual Friday Schedule
Routine and Structure: Our weekly schedule of being in person Monday through Thursday with a virtual learning day on Friday provides our kids and our community with a clear rhythm and routine to the school year. With the exception of one virtual Monday at the secondary complex, we have been able to provide structure to the daily and weekly schedules of our school community. We believe the reliability of this model provides the guideposts and concrete expectations that benefit our community, our kids, and our faculty and staff. We believe predictability and structure are the most valuable assets we can provide in this context.
Return to Normal v. Stability: Covid fatigue has many wishing that we could return to normal. Across the Commonwealth and the nation, schools are at the forefront of this often-pointed conversation. For the past seven months, “normal” for the Bloomsburg Area School District has consisted of a highly effective schedule that balances community support, student mental health, building health and safety, and student growth and achievement. The stability and predictability of our work this year has been as close to normal as we could hope for in the midst of a pandemic. To change focus and approach for the last two months of the school year actually threatens this sense of stability and structure.
Students who are At-Risk: As presented several meetings ago, our data reflects that the learning loss reported across the Commonwealth and the nation is not occurring on a macro-level in Bloomsburg. The opportunity for our teachers and administrators to meet weekly to review and discuss students who have been disengaged from either in-person or Blended learning has been a key factor in mitigating the number of students who are falling behind.
- We have proposed the addition of a security and truancy coordinator who can connect with the kids who either have or who are beginning to show signs of disconnecting as the weather turns and the school year draws to a close. Our child study work on these Fridays would allow this person to “get up to speed” with each of our teams and begin to make the necessary connections to re-initiate student engagement.
- Additionally, our virtual Fridays allow our teachers provide opportunity and access for kids who are engaged, but who may have fallen behind due to quarantine or other life events. Rather than consider how to eliminate this important time, one of our key administrative priorities is figuring out how to replicate the success of our current model in a five-day school week when we return in the fall.
Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum/Block Schedule: We have been able to address in substantive ways, through professional development and teacher team work, our noted concerns regarding our K-8 curriculum and our shift to the Block Schedule. The effectiveness of our adoption of core reading and math programs K-8 has been accelerated by the opportunity for our teachers to work together, with our external partners and on their own, to make the curriculum their own. At the secondary level, our teachers have done an amazing job adjusting their traditional 40-minute curriculum to the 80-minute block. The opportunity for both groups to complete this work within our current schedule will not only allow for a strong finish for this school year, but will create the conditions for an accelerated start next fall.
Perception: For those who watch the national news, there is a perception that teachers have it easy, that they are not in school, they are prioritized for the vaccine, and they should have to share the struggles of everyone else. When I talk with my colleagues across the Commonwealth regarding their instructional models, we do not share the same lived experience.
- Our teachers are in school Monday through Friday. They do not work from home unless we need to close a building or the weather will not allow on a virtual Friday.
- While it is accurate we were among the first in the state to receive mass vaccinations, we are also one of only a handful of school districts who have been in session as planned since the start of the school year.
Coupled with the curriculum changes and the everyday stresses of living and working in a pandemic, our teachers should not be painted with the same brush national commentators use to portray their profession. The diligence, grace, and patience of our faculty and staff should be the headlines.
Click here to access our revised 2020-2021 school calendar: School Calendar 2020-2021.