Letter to the Editor: Redbank Valley Superintendent Speaks of Online Progress for the District
On the afternoon of Friday, March 13, 2020, students were notified that the district would not close, but needed to prepare for that possibility. Sunday, March 15, signified the first closure of public school in Pennsylvania. Since that monumental announcement by Governor Wolf, public schools across the state have been closed until the end of the regular school calendar.
The initial closure struck everyone with surprise. Many asked the questions, what are we going to do with schools closed, and how long with this last?
The district began to take action immediately. Schools were closed on Monday, March 16, but meetings were being conducted over the phone between parents and staff. The administrative team began discussing options immediately. The administrative team understood the need to keep the staff and students connected during this physical separation.
On Wednesday, March 18, 2020, teachers and support staff began to build the idea of online instructional opportunities for students that would connect staff and students no matter the length of closure. The teachers devoted hours to creating a Google Classroom for their content. This process involved numerous Zoom meeting between staff, phone calls, and emails. The district staff used the original two-week closure to prepare for a continuity of education plan long before the Pennsylvania Department of Education required any district to do so.
The result of time devoted by the administration, teachers, and support staff was enrichment and review approach beginning on Monday, March 30, and the full launch of planned instruction on Monday, April 6, 2020. The week of March 30th allowed the district the opportunity to dispense Chrome books to students needing them and educational packets to others.
The dedication of the Redbank Valley staff positioned the district to be one of over 500 school districts statewide offering planned instruction before, during, or after the Pennsylvania Department of Education suggested school district provide this service for students.
“Professionally, I was unable to comprehend not offering an online plan of instruction knowing we were capable of this endeavor,” stated superintendent, Dr. John Mastillo.
He continued by saying, “This is much more than providing educational opportunities for our students; it is about keeping everyone connected during these uncertain times.”
The staff and administration continue to conduct meetings regularly to remain connected and to provide updates. Meetings to discuss what the end of the 2019-2020 school year are taking place now, and the district will release information as it becomes available. In some cases, guidance from the state level is impending.
To the common eye, as you drive past one of the district’s three campuses, you would think that operations have grinded to a halt. On the contrary, the only area that is not operating as normal is the use of electricity and natural gas to light and heat the buildings. What the community does not see is “grab and go” meals being prepared and served, various staff members gathering materials in the buildings so parents can pick them up, teachers working online preparing instructional materials and correcting assignments, staff communicating with students, online staff meetings, online administrative meetings, teams working to discuss the end of the year events, the building being maintained, and many more.
Please do not be misled. The Redbank Valley School District did not close and stop operations. Administration, teachers, support staff, maintenance, cafeteria, and secretaries have been steadily working since Monday, March 16, 2020, to ensure our students have the opportunity to learn and be provided the resources they need during this closure. As a result of legislative bills at the state and federal levels, the district is not experiencing a reduction in expenditures as one might think.
The staff of Redbank Valley has set the level of expectation in building and implementing an online educational platform for its students. We are excited and proud of the program they have created and that they diligently remain in contact with their students. Given an opportunity, say thank you to Redbank Valley School District employees for helping to establish the district as a leading district in this time of closure.
Dr. John Mastillo, Superintendent
Redbank Valley School District
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