Supporting the Whole Child in Virtual Education

Upper Merion Area School District  |  Posted on

Upper Merion Area School District Virtual Learning Supporting the Whole Child

As Upper Merion Area School District prepared for the start the 2020-21 school year during the COVID-19 pandemic, educators and administrators quickly realized it would take a collaborative effort to create a plan that would support the students and teachers socially, emotionally and academically. Six teams were created consisting of teachers and administrators that focused on a few key areas of virtual learning: Virtual Learning Weekly Schedule, Virtual Learning Guide for Parents/Guardians/Caregivers, and Teacher Expectations. By focusing on a few areas they were able to make considerable progress in a short amount of time.

Each level (elementary, middle, and high) had a Virtual Academy team and a Campus Closure team. Using the Think, Share, Decide model of decision-making, each team met twice weekly over the course of four weeks to create a plan in each of the major areas. Using a true collaborative approach, each team member, regardless of the position in the district, had an equal voice in the decision-making process. Meetings lasted a maximum of 1 hour 15 minutes using a structured approach of whole group and small groups to discuss work completed. In addition, communication and sharing of ideas between meetings with fellow teachers, community members, and parents/guardians/caregivers was encouraged.

One of the most innovative schedule designs was an asynchronous learning day once a week throughout all of the district’s schools. This day is dedicated to supporting students socially, emotionally and academically. Students attend live instruction throughout the day on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, with an opportunity to receive individual or small group support on Wednesdays in a myriad of areas that embrace using a whole-child approach to education. Each team recognized early how important it would be to include a day to support both students and teachers as they navigate virtual learning during the pandemic.