Rye Country Day@Home
By Robin Jovanovich
When the news broke that Gov. Cuomo had signed an executive order requiring schools to close by March 18 for two weeks, Rye Country Day was already closed — for spring break through March 29. “We had the advantage of already having an engaged learning community, but the disadvantage of having so many members of the faculty out of town,” said Headmaster Scott Nelson.
Over a two-week period, the school not only created a leadership team but also the rationale and the division of specific plans, said Nelson. The group met remotely and built schedules and grading policies and was ready by the time students returned to classes. But instead of returning April 2 as Cuomo had initially planned, the date was pushed back to April 15.
“Online education can’t replicate what happens in our classrooms,” stressed Nelson, “but it does provide continuity of learning.”
One of the first things Rye Country Day faculty did was reach out to West Coast and international schools that had already moved to online learning because of the coronavirus. “We collaborated and received excellent guidance,” said the headmaster.
Since creating a K-12 digital curriculum program, Rye Country Day@Home, the school has added other “after-2:30” resources — prerecorded yoga, meditation, and baking classes, for starters. Librarians have posted links to prized children’s authors reading from their works. “We want to make sure that younger children are not spending too much time online during a school day,” said Nelson. He pointed us to an informative interview that one of the parents, Jonathan Grayer, CEO of Weld North, which is heavily invested in national online learning platforms,
did on the subject on “The Today Show”.
To ensure a level playing field, Rye Country Day made sure that all students in grades 7 through 12, as well as their teachers, had laptops. (Sixteen percent of the student body are on scholarships.) They also loaned laptops to students in grades 2 through 6.
“I’ve said to the faculty that out of every challenge comes opportunity. We’ll look back and be proud of how we provided instruction and what we learned along the way,” said Nelson.
The Governor has since ordered all schools to remain closed until April 29. Whatever date students are allowed back, Rye Country Day will be ready. “And we may need to be flexible,” added Nelson. “Graduation, which is still scheduled for June 5, may be moved to Homecoming Weekend. There are some creative ideas out there. We’ll have those end-of-year rites of passage.”
Meanwhile, Rye Country Day is working hard to provide the first-rate education they’ve built their reputation on.