Professional development focuses on remote learning

While some things about the 2020-21 school year are different than in previous years, the dedication of the Fayetteville-Manlius School District staff and administration remains the same.

District officials and staff members worked throughout the summer to plan for what instruction for all students looks like in the COVID-19 era. They developed a reopening plan that followed state and federal guidelines and includes some students being physically in school buildings two days a week and learning remotely the other school days, some students solely participating in remote instruction and some of the district’s highest-need special education students attending school four days per week. 

Because the majority of students will participate in some type of remote instruction throughout the school year, and there is the possibility that schools may have to close again if the virus infection rate spikes locally, the district has focused on developing a robust remote learning instructional model. 

“Teachers are developing their courses with the mindset that students can access materials and learning through our online student management system,” said Mary Coughlin, F-M’s assistant superintendent for instruction. “In that way, if it becomes necessary, students and staff should be able to more easily shift to total remote instruction for all students.”

The district used the summer months and early September to prepare for how to best meet its students’ needs. It hired a full-time online learning specialist to support teachers in developing their courses and building an online community that takes into account student academics and wellness.

The district also delayed the start of school and moved two staff development days from later in the school year to before the start of instruction to allow teachers more time to collaborate and plan. Staff members were able to take part in professional development sessions focused on such topics as Google Meet, Schoology, WeVideo, live streaming and how to engage students in a remote instructional environment.  

Throughout the school year, Wednesdays are designated as remote learning days for all students, which will allow for the custodial staff to deep clean the buildings and give staff members the opportunity to participate in targeted professional development sessions on a skill or concept around remote teaching and learning.

On Wednesdays, students have the opportunity to connect virtually with their teachers for questions and support during established office hours. The district is also using Wednesdays to deliver necessary print materials to those students whose families have opted to have their children learn from home every day.

The remote model is different from what families experienced in the spring when schools closed with little notice. Teachers now follow a bell schedule at the middle and high schools, and elementary-level teachers use a block schedule. These schedules allow students in both the hybrid and remote learning models to have regular and substantive interaction with their teachers and to participate in a full day of instruction. 

Staff members and district leaders will be evaluating the instructional plan throughout the school year and make adjustments as needed. 

“I am extremely proud of the hard work and dedication of our teachers and staff to prepare for the school year,” Coughlin said. “We’re going to continue to improve as we learn from each other and our colleagues across the state and country.”