Remote School Day declared a success

By Maria Libby | Mar 14, 2019

Camden — The Five Town CSD and the MSAD 28 implemented the first public school remote school day in the state of Maine on Feb. 13, at Camden Hills Regional, Camden Rockport Middle, and Camden Rockport Elementary, and it was a huge success. The day was exciting for most of our students and teachers. Elementary students woke up extra early and insisted on cafeteria-style lunches at home, middle schoolers stayed in their PJ’s, connected with their peers, and buckled down to work, and high school students focused their time so they would have time to do other things – ski, work, etc. The attendance rates across the district were higher than for a normal day. We heard from a parent whose children participated from a vacation in Florida and one whose child was home sick but was able to join in.

The approach looked slightly different depending on the grade level. Kindergarten to fourth graders received “Genius Bags” with activities such as books and math games. Fifth and sixth graders got take-home projects from their teachers. Older students, however, used their school-supplied laptops and tablets, and accessed their learning while at home on what would typically have been a day to be made up in June. Students and teachers had prepared well for the day.

We surveyed parents, staff, and students a couple of days after the remote school day. Overall, the feedback from staff, students and parents was very positive. The parent feedback on the success of the remote school day ranged from 80 percent success (CHRHS) to 84 percent success (CRES). The parents also believed that the remote school day was worth having instead of making up the day in June (83 percent CRMS to 85 percent CRES).

Based on the survey feedback, we made some quick adjustments in time for the second remote school day, at Camden Hills Regional High School on March 4, that went off without a hitch. Feedback had included: a consistent method for checking in with each teacher/class, an opportunity for real-time interactions with peers and teachers, and that teachers commit to answering emails in a timely fashion. High school students liked being able to complete their work at their own pace and the opportunity to sleep in during the morning. Many students were able to balance their need for extra sleep, outside recreation, and home responsibilities and appreciated the opportunity to do so versus a school day in late June.

At the middle level, parents commented on how some students collaborated with one another to get their work completed, setting up a classroom chat and helping one another out if they had any questions. Parents felt like their children did not have any major challenges in completing the work required but had access to their teachers if needed. Many felt there was a good “balance” between working and playing.

At the elementary level, some students were so excited they began their work the night before! Many parents stated that they loved the opportunity to work together as a family and appreciated that the teacher was available online for support. Many photos of young learners in their pajamas playing math games or reading with their families were shared with us.

Parents and students did encounter some challenges. There was significant variability in work time requirements and some younger students struggled to complete their work independently, thus causing a hardship for parents who work from home or rely on child care providers during a snow day. Many also stated that while this was a good way to reduce the number of snow days, they would want to see a limit on the number of days per school year that remote school days were used. We agree and feel a balance is best.

Moving forward, our districts plan to use two remote school days next year. This will include one of the required 175 days and the one extra day we have beyond that. (The Maine Department of Education will allow schools across the state to pilot remote school days for one of the required 175 days next year.) The Five Town CSD and MSAD 28 districts are happy to share information and resources with other districts who are interested in piloting this idea. It is well worth it!

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