Parents, School Leaders Find Their Stride With Online Learning

At the Eliot School, Principal Traci Walker Griffiths and her school staff had already done a Herculean effort to get some online learning together and running by the April Spring Break.

However, that was also a moment when they had a turning point in taking online learning from adequate to excellent, she said, and finished up the school year this Monday with a full online learning plan.

And parents at the Eliot K-8 – which hosts kids from Charlestown, North End and Beacon Hill – have noticed, saying their children have not had the backsliding in learning or lack of teacher time they expected.

“Our goal has always been to keep children at the center of the work,” she said. “I would have never been able to tell you 13 weeks ago the highlight of the year would be our joyous June and end of year celebrations being held on Zoom. Not many parents would have told you 13 weeks ago they would be teaching reading and math and setting up asynchronous videos for their kids…When I look at where we are now – making that big shift after April vacation – it was that family feedback was heard and the wanted teachers to be part of the process.”

That shift marked Phase 2 of online learning, and the Eliot was ahead of most public schools in Boston as it was the first to close down when the pandemic hit in March. Early on, some parents were worried about the slowness to roll out a full plan, and whether or not kids would be hurt by not having teacher contact.

Charlestown parent Joe DeRoeve said he was worried at first, but couldn’t be happier with where the year has ended. He noted that not only has the school found success in the core subjects, but also they have been able to add in the electives like the EPIC program.

“I could not be happier with the Eliot and what they’ve been able to do in the last three months,” he said. “What started out as an emergency response has turned into a fully adapted virtual student experience. I still fully believe in the structure of the school system of student and teacher interaction. It’s irreplaceable, but they have unearthed an opportunity to leverage this in the future…Our family couldn’t be happier with the way program from the Eliot School.”

State Rep. Dan Ryan, who has two children at the Eliot, was interviewed in a previous story several months ago about starting the online learning journey. He had planned to take piano lessons from his daughters and to be very involved in their education. His job at the State House, though, was much more demanding, but he said his kids adapted to the technology well.

“Well, my piano lessons came to a screeching halt,” he said. “I should have anticipated how much legislative and community work needed to be done as the shutdown prolonged. But, in terms of the school year, I think the children adapted well. They got accustomed to the remote learning and really looked forward to the Zooms with their friends. The teachers were great.”

The focus now is on next year, Walker Griffiths said, and the schools – while celebrating the end of a challenging year – are also planning to work overtime through the summer planning for the fall and communicating a lot more than usual over the summer.

“That consistency over the summer is going to be important because of the way we’re ending the school year,” she said. “We have more questions than answers. It will be important for us to communicate things this summer. It has to be a constant connection. It has to be a summer consistent in communication with families.”

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