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Troy schools adapt to, excel at virtual education

When the coronavirus began hitting the country, Troy School District 30-C administrators got busy planning for the possibility of closing its seven schools. They knew adapting to online classrooms would be a profound transformation for teachers, students and parents, and there was a lot to do to prepare.

When the governor closed the schools, Troy was ready. The first day, paper-based packets were sent home with every student containing information for students and parents. Superintendent Dr. Todd Koehl then relayed information concerning e-learning plans, how to log onto remote learning sites and how families would communicate with teachers and other staff.

The students then began their classes’ online assignments, via the district’s digital-based remote learning plan.

“The beginning was a little rough,” said Troy Middle School eighth grade English language arts teacher Patricia Hiemer. “It was a big challenge for all of the students and for us, but it is going well now.”

Hiemer, along with all other Troy teachers, makes herself available with home “office hours” every school day so that students can talk with her. She said the district’s older students are managing their assignments well and usually only need their parents’ help with time-management.

“We don’t want the parents to feel overwhelmed,” she said. “We’re in this together, and we’re stronger together.”

Troy Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Dr. Kristin Johnson, said key in forming the remote learning plan was making sure it continued the district’s strong teacher-student relationships, along with supporting students’ emotional well-being and providing meaningful learning experiences for all students.

“We are continuing to move forward with students learning new, prioritized material in their classes through instruction.” Johnson said, “Teachers are also going beyond the online instruction by connecting with their students by video conferencing and emails, taking virtual field trips with them, holding online show-and-tell and even celebrating birthdays online.”

Johnson said the focus during these times of uncertainty is on more than just education. It’s also on kindness and connection and promoting positive emotional health for Troy’s students, which lessens the feelings of isolation.

Those connections also include more than core teachers and principals. Those who teach the “specials” are also involved, including P.E., art and music instructors. Social workers, librarians and teaching assistants also continue to work with students.

Troy’s Technology Department, led by Ron Sarver, Executive Director of Information Services, played an important role in making sure all students had access to computers and the internet.

Upper-level students at Troy Middle School and William B. Orenic Intermediate School already had 1:1 student to device access with a program instituted this school year, and the Technology Department made sure that the elementary students who did not have adequate computers at home were lent devices to use for the period of at-home learning.

Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Dr. Jenna Woodland said almost 800 Chromebooks were lent out to students. No new computers were purchased, she said. Devices already in the district were repurposed.

Woodland added that Troy technology staff have also made themselves available 12 hours a day for parents and students who have questions about their use of technology.

Woodland and Johnson said e-learning at Troy is going well.

"It was our goal to provide a continuum of learning while our students are at home,” Woodland said. “Due to the dedication of our staff, the partnerships with our families and the willingness of our students to learn in a different way, we have accomplished that goal. We are proud that we have the resources that we do at Troy 30-C."

“In three weeks,” said Dr. Koehl, “we have transformed a 222-year-old school structure for onsite learning into a virtual learning process. The speed with which we were able to implement our e-learning plan; the fact that we are able to continue our students’ learning trajectory; and the can-do, will-do approach to adapting the program as we progress is a testament to the strength of our Troy community. Our Board of Education, our administrators, our staff, and our parents -our honorary staff - have all committed that we continue to educate our students through this situation. We are honored to serve in such a community.”


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