It’s ‘Home Room’ time again

Stratford readies for two-day practice run of Distance Learning to prepare for another possible shutdown

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During the upcoming distance learning days, you may be tempted to wake up right before home room, open up your laptop and join your Google Meet stream, while still in your pajamas.

A word of advice: Don’t try it.

“It’s not a vacation,” Head of Upper School Mrs Theresa Ferrari said. “This is a school day.”

Stratford’s Upper School, Middle School and Lower School all will be in Distance Learning on Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 3-4. Students will return to campus on Thursday.

“Although we are off campus, the two distance learning days are still regular school days,” Mrs. Ferrari said. “They count toward the required 175 school days for this year.”

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“We are doing this so that in the event that there is a mandatory shut down like we either have so many cases at our school or so many cases in the community that we are told that we have to by public health departments that we have to shut down, we want to have it practiced. Last spring when we did this, it really was kind of by the seat of our pants in a lot of ways. We just went into emergency mode ,and we tried to do the best that we can. This time we want it to be more organized and structured.”

— Mrs. Theresa Ferrari, head of upper school

During the on-line days, students and faculty will be following a regular school schedule beginning with home room. Tuesday will be an “A” day, and Wednesday is a “B” day. 

“Teachers are expected to do synchronous, or live teaching, and some asynchronous work, which is work students can do on their own time, so it doesn’t necessarily have to be done by that period,’’ Mrs. Ferrari said.

 Although teachers aren’t required to, some may choose to do a live teaching session both days. However, the teachers are required to “ensure that every student can get online at the same time with minimal problems.” 

Students must wear appropriate clothes while on Google Classroom. Mrs. Ferrari said the dress code will be enforced. It a uniform is not worn, that students will receive a demerit. 

“Because it is a regular school day, we just want it to be as normal as possible,’’ Mrs. Ferrari said. “You know anyone who is in distance learning right now as an option, they’re in uniform every day.  So that’s a requirement of them and it’ll be a requirement of us. It just kind of sets the tone for ‘this is a regular, official school day’ and avoids issues of kids in pajamas or inappropriate clothing, or anything of that nature. …

“This is a school day. We are doing this so that in the event that there is a mandatory shut down like we either have so many cases at our school or so many cases in the community that we are told that we have to by public health departments that we have to shut down, we want to have it practiced. Last spring when we did this, it really was kind of by the seat of our pants in a lot of ways. We just went into emergency mode ,and we tried to do the best that we can. This time we want it to be more organized and structured.”

Stratford closed campus operations on March 16 and did not return for the remainder of the semester. Students and teachers became familiar with the distance learning model. Mrs. Ferrari said now is the time to refine it. She said the  feedback from students was that they wanted more face-to-face instruction from their teachers. They also wanted more “structure and consistency.’’ 

“I think you will find that your teachers have a little more experience and you’ll find a better time with it, because they have been working with the distance learning students,’’ she said. “They might have more tools at their fingertips.”

She said the school is in the process of upgrading its Google Suite for Education, to allow for the Google Meet sessions to offer breakout rooms. 

“Teachers found it very difficult to have discussions with the entire class. So, it’s going to give the ability to divide the class into smaller groups to promote easier discussions,’’ Mrs. Ferrari said.  “Last year, we put some strict limits on how many minutes a day you could be on a Zoom (conference) and how many minutes of homework you could have. We aren’t going to do that.

“A lot of ground was lost last spring in terms of people’s education and we don’t want that to happen to the Stratford students. We lost ground in the spring because we just couldn’t cover all of the information. These two days are just a little snapshot. They’re going to be full school days. Every school day last year was more modified. But I think that you’ll find that this will be more like you’re actually at school. This is a little bit higher requirement. Much of the purpose is to test our technology infrastructure just to make sure that everybody has the equipment that they need and then everybody can get in and out of where they need to go.”

There was no school scheduled Monday because of a GISA conference the school had offered to host. Some students and faculty wondered if the two distance learning dates were added because of Election Day.

“We thought it would be a good time to continue off of this election because it is the most contentious election we have seen in a long time,” Mrs. Ferrari said. “The election would be the ‘elephant in the room.’ The truth is I don’t think we will have the election results on Wednesday. It might be days before we get the election results. It was not completely an accident. It’s likely that students and faculty might be distracted on those days anyway. Potentially, there could be people rejoicing or people being upset. So we thought if we are going to go for two days, which was the original plan, we thought this might not be a bad time to do it.’’