A district's new AV implementation positioned it to be uniquely situation to handle learning changes when COVID-19 emerged

The hidden benefits of a move to online instruction

In a virtual classroom driven by COVID-19, educators are discovering new and innovative ways to teach--here's how one district found some silver linings in its move online

That COVID “where were you when” moment from last March is still fresh in Paul Sanfrancesco’s mind. Watching neighboring districts announce closures and realizing his own faculty would be stranded at home, contingency plans were hatched and devices were launched to prep students for remote learning.

Some of the district’s best strategies to ease the transition, along with hidden benefits, include:

  • Online recess helped kids socialize and become more comfortable in their new virtual environments
  • A device and an internet connection made their way into every student’s home
  • District leaders realized that, even post-COVID, learning won’t be the same–it will have to evolve and innovate

While no one could have been completely prepared for what has since developed, schools in the Owen J. Roberts School District (OJRSD) were already using several learning management tools that eased the transition. They also continue to learn new techniques and strategies as all schools everywhere move into the unknown.

Sanfrancesco is Director of Technology for OJRSD. The district, located in northern Chester County, Pennsylvania, comprises five elementary schools, one middle school, and the Owen J. Roberts High School. The student population for the entire district is around 4,800 students. Sanfrancesco teaches as a professor in the Graduate Education Department at Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA and Neumann University, Aston, PA. He was named CTO of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association for Educational Communications and Technology and one of the “20 to Watch” educators by the National School Boards Association for his work in IT.

In this conversation with eSchool News, Sanfrancesco touches on a number of new realities: the raw need for devices access for every student; creating better relationships with parents; getting younger students Zoom ready; and more. Below are some highlights:


eSchool News: While there are thousands of horror stories out there about how districts basically failed in transitioning students to a remote setup, your district sounds like things went relatively well. How come?

PS: Our teachers were prepared to handle this kind of learning environment because we already had implemented learning management systems at all levels. In the elementary schools, we have Seesaw. We have Google Classroom and Canvas at the middle and high school. Everybody was already trained. We had actually mandated that all teachers, guidance counselors, nurses, whoever, do at least one of their LMSs in their school. So in that regard, compared to other districts who had to scramble and close for a week so they could do PD, we were good.

Kevin Hogan

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