“Education” for the 2020–2021 school year

A COVID Schedule of Events

Following more than six years with Friends, I am moving on. During this transition, I have been thinking a lot about the time I have supported this community and the “nuggets” of wisdom I may be able to share.

The last eight-plus months have been a crazy ride and offered a lot of opportunities to learn. March thru November have been fluid, recommendations and requirements have been all over the place, and putting the pieces together continues to be a bit of a mystery.

I’ll start at the beginning — March 2020;
Prior to closing, we had several meetings with key people throughout the school: the nurse, operations, security, and technology. They provided a practical and useful group to discuss what was needed when the school would close.

The group grew to include the academic teams to help figure out what they needed to move to online learning. As a broad team, we gathered information, discussed options, and worked towards goals that would serve the entire community.

Upon closing the school, we had items ready to go. iPads for families that may have had limited technology resources, a dozen MiFi devices for those that may have spotty internet, and the support team already had excellent skills at caring and hearing the community’s needs.

We closed, made one or two trips to the office to pick up “inventory,” and ordered many items to have on hand as needed in the spring of 2019–2020. We met daily via Zoom, and we leveraged Asana and Slack to stay in touch and keep each other informed as to what was happening and deepened our use of Zendesk to manage the requests coming in from families, faculty, and staff.

Spring 2020;
I (being the team member that had a little more room in a home and not an apartment) ordered packing materials, became a little more comfortable with UPS and their shipping process, and leveraged a basic Google Sheet for inventory. All this supported the community to send out laptops and iPads, additional adapters and chargers, cables, and Google WiFi mesh systems to improve home WiFi signals.

We worked with several faculty and staff who had never needed to Zoom for hours on end in their home (often with spouses and other children doing the same). The “fast” internet many had in the prior months showed the limitation when stressed in this new way.

Two internet takeaways here. The Google WiFi Mesh system is dependable and reliable. A MiFi hotspot provided access to the internet with redundancy for those that needed a dedicated connection.

As Zoom became the defacto platform for communication, we spent a lot of time working with faculty and staff to secure their meetings. Zoom, at the same time, was contending with shoring up their platform for immense growth and security. The team spent time in webinars, speaking with sales reps and peers, and developed a reasonable process and security settings for supporting the entire school using Zoom.

A few takeaways here from Zoom settings. Enabling waiting rooms, removing access to the whiteboard function, limiting screen sharing, and disabling private chats kept the issues to a minimum.

We still had a number of times where “kids will be kids.” With the Zoom admin backend, we could review network addresses, devices and provide a little info to the administration that it seemed to be “Billy.” Thankfully we never had a full-on “zoom-bombing” issue.

Being a Google for Education school, we leveraged Classroom, Drive, and Docs to have students work on schoolwork, submit homework, and collaborate. For those needing access to secure resources, we used our VPN to provide access to the key personal and data.

Document and Data takeaways. Leverage the cloud whenever possible, and confirm a secure way for key data to be accessed, shared, and stored.

PART II — Summer and Planning for Fall 2020 (coming soon)

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