Learning While Schools Are Closed: School Leaders Share Remote Learning Innovations

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the lives of people all over the world have been turned upside down. Businesses are closed, people are forced to stay-at-home to remain safe, and schools have shut their doors to keep the pandemic from spreading. Amidst this unprecedented disruption, school leaders, teachers, parents, and students are working around the clock to adapt to remote learning.

We’re inspired every day by school leaders, teachers, and parents who are innovating in support of continued student learning during this difficult time. As part of our efforts to support schools, the Schoolrunner team released a set of resources for schools adapting to COVID-19. We also tapped two innovative schools in New Orleans to share their strategies for adapting to school closures in the latest installment of our webinar series, Learning While Schools Are Closed.

In the webinar, Elisabeth Lamotte-Mitchell, Principal of Paul Habans Charter School, discussed the policies and practices that she’s implemented at her school to adjust to COVID-19. The highlights of Elisabeth’s approach include:

  • Ensuring equitable access. All kids receive hardcopy resources to be able to do their work and learn. Elisabeth and her team sent home differentiated packets for K-5 and also for special education students (teachers create individual folders for high-needs students). Packets include assignments, workbooks, pencils, and contact sheets. All students in grades 6-8 receive Chromebooks.
  • Structured school day with some flexibility. Staff work from 10am-2pm each day with the ability to manage their own time outside of those hours. Days of the week are themed, for example, “Modeling Mondays,” “Talk it out Tuesdays,” and “Thinking Thursdays.”
  • Clear, consistent communication. Elisabeth uses MailChimp to send weekly updates/links to parents and two weekly emails to staff to provide updates, direction, and encouragement. 
  • Bring joy and a growth mindset to the work. Elisabeth recognizes that remote learning is hard, but it is also fun. Fun ideas include “Scholar of the Week” (post via Instragram and pizza delivery to the Scholar’s house) and “Spirit Week” (do fun things at home like make Playdoh and post pictures on Instagram). They use the hashtag #habansfromhome to share and create community. 

Forrest Cook is an English teacher at the Rooted School. Rooted has been using Google Classroom for a long time and they are real pros at it, and Forrest is a pro among the pros. In the webinar, he taught attendees how to use Google Classroom (GC) for:

  • Onboarding. Rooted standardizes GC use across courses and gradually releases new uses to ease students into platform adoption (e.g., create short playlists and release).
  • Attendance. Rooted teachers launch a quick GC quiz in the first 5 minutes of class to confirm student attendance. Results are then imported into Schoolrunner to track class attendance. He noted that users could also use “poll everywhere” as an attachment to Google slides to take attendance. 
  • Grade transparency. Teachers import grades from Google Classroom quickly into Schoolrunner so that students are aware of their grades.
  • Safeguarding student data and privacy. Rooted provides safeguards needed for students to access only appropriate content on Chromebooks and to ensure data privacy.

Both educators noted that their transition to remote learning is a work in progress, but they’re very encouraged with how teachers and students are adapting to the new way of schooling. Most importantly, teachers are willing to try new things to engage students and to continue to improve their practice. The Schoolrunner team was really impressed with their creativity and ingenuity! 


Lee D.

School Partnerships and Operations Manager

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