As a result of the recent Coronavirus challenge, Villa Maria quickly and successfully moved to providing instruction via Distance Learning. A new, comprehensive daily master instructional schedule was developed to ensure that students continue to receive daily interactive and personalized instruction.
Each child is provided with his or her own unique schedule featuring daily lessons in reading, writing, and mathematics, as well as instruction multiple times per week in Language Arts, science, social studies, PE, and the arts (music and fine art). As always, these classes remain small and personal, with no more than 4 or 5 students in each day’s reading, writing, and math classes, and no more than 5 or 6 students in the afternoon sections of language arts, science, and social studies.
As of Monday, March 16, children meet daily with their subject area teachers and related service providers via Zoom and with the use of Google Docs and Google Classroom. The interactive nature of these media, allow for students and teachers to converse, exchange, and dialogue with each other, thus best approximating the physical campus experience. In order to make the day’s lessons as best as possible, parents are asked to follow a series of guidelines which include the following:
- Please be on time for classes. We take attendance at the begining of class, and a late student disrupts the lesson for everyone.
- Have a designated, quiet place at home for participation each day (please no siblings or pets should be nearby). It should have all the materials needed for a successful class (books, homework, paper, pencils, and of course your computer or iPad), and please, no toys, food or other distracting items.
- Wear earphones during class to help foster greater focus and attention.
- Have breakfast before class and not during it. Please, no snacks.
- Be dressed appropriately for class (no pajamas!). We even encourage you to wear your school uniform if you want. This sets the tone for learning.
- Raise your hand if you want to say something or ask a question to best navigate the other students in the Zoom classroom.
- If you need to take a break, ask your teacher for permission.
Children also receive speech/language, counseling, occupational therapy and social development sessions as individually prescribed by our related service providers and individual educational plans (IEPs). These meetings are also provided via Zoom video conferencing, allowing for the all-important interactivity so critical for these lessons and services.
When not teaching in their Zoom classes, teachers are preparing content and attending virtual team meetings, where they continue to discuss student growth and learning, and brainstorm how to best implement lessons for our students.
School administrators participate in online meetings and conferences with local and State leaders, as well as keeping in touch with other independent and public schools in our area, so that our school community is well-informed about happenings in the region, State and at the National level.
A weekly community-wide newsletter as well as regular emails keep parents informed about how this new initiative is working. Administrators continue to be available and accessible to parents who may want to discuss their child’s struggles. Teachers also remain accessible through email or phone. Families needing access to technology have been loaned Chromebooks for their Villa students. Helping all stakeholders in our community feel connected is a central goal as we continue to run school remotely.
“What the Villa Maria community has done during this time of uncertainty and change has been nothing short of amazing. From Day 1 of online learning I feel as though the entire team has been thoughtful, prepared and responsive. As a mother of a child with different learning needs I was concerned this would be a challenging time for my son. But in fact, I have been incredibly pleased by the way Villa has structured a program that he is thriving in – in fact, he wakes up each morning asking when ‘school’ is going to start. He is happy, learning and interacting (online) with his peers.
I cannot thank the teachers, staff and administration enough for caring about my child and making sure he continues to grow during this time. I know he and I cannot wait until he can get back on campus, but until then I know he is in good hands.”Parent of an elementary school student