Coronavirus May Be Test of Technology-Enabled Learning

March 20, 2020: Volume 26, Number 6

The accelerating shutdowns of K-12 schools, happening under the threat of the coronavirus, may highlight how widespread the shift to digital learning has been, but also may highlight ongoing inequities across schools.

In New Rochelle, NY, one of the first communities impacted by the virus, the private Ursuline School will be closed until at least March 26, with the school's 775 students moving to online learning,

“Classes have used online resources for a long time, and the faculty has been preparing for online learning in recent weeks,” school president Eileen Davidson told The Journal News."It really is probably forcing us to go to that next level," she said.

The Ursuline School has had no coronavirus cases, but Davidson said she endorsed the shutdown if it could curtail spread of the disease.

The city of New Rochelle’s public-school district, which educates more than 10,000 students in a diverse community, has shut down its schools until at least March 25 and plans to teach almost 6,000 students who attend those schools remotely “as best they can.”

"We must make these two weeks count instructionally and ensure students are learning and engaged while we deal with this worldwide crisis," superintendent Laura Feijoo said in an email to parents.

The district plans to distribute Chromebook laptops to middle and high school students who do not have access to a home computer and will send parents emails about their children's instruction.

Planning Ahead

Neighboring districts in the suburbs north of New York City began sharing plans in advance of the anticipated spread of the disease, as a March 9 email from Mahopac superintendent of schools Anthony DiCarlo indicated.

“Given the reality of the current situation, the Mahopac Central School District has developed a preparedness and response plan in the event that our normal operations are significantly impacted by COVID-19,” Di Carlo wrote. “We also utilized our March 6, 2020 Superintendent Conference Day to train our staff on how we could potentially continue to learn and/or work remotely in the event that we are advised that any of our buildings need to be closed for an extended period of time.”

DiCarlo said the district’s investment in instructional technology and resources made them prepared to respond to the crisis. In early March, schools deployed Chromebooks to students in grades K-4, and those students worked with staff on practicing login procedures. Staff and students in grades 5 through 12 were reminded to bring the Chromebooks they already had to school and then to home daily in the event access to school buildings is cut off.

“Deployment of Chromebooks to all students in our buildings at this time will allow us to be flexible in our response moving forward, DiCarlo wrote. As of March 16, the Mahopac schools were closed.



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