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What remote-only looks like at GJSD

Photo courtesy of GJSD Pleasant Avenue kindergarten teacher Katie Warner interacts with her remote-only students.

JOHNSTOWN — One week before Thanksgiving break, Greater Johnstown School District Superintendent William Crankshaw sent a note to district families letting them know what steps have been taken internally to ensure a seamless transition to fully remote learning, should the district find it necessary to switch learning models because of COVID-19. Teachers and students have all been briefed on what they need to do in the coming days to be prepared for the possibility of that shift, at any time. There are several students and teachers, however, who have the system down to a science, because they’ve successfully been doing it since the start of the school year.

In August, families were asked to choose between two learning models for their child — hybrid: Two days in-person, three days remote; or fully remote.

When the commitment forms came in, administrators realized that at the elementary level, there were enough fully-remote students to dedicate one teacher per grade level. At Pleasant Avenue Elementary school, Principal Cory Cotter assigned Katie Warner to teach the all-remote kindergarten class; Catherine Knabe-Bikowicz for first grade and Ellen Roehl for second grade.

“When it came time to assign teachers for the all-remote classes, we intentionally chose educators who we knew would be up for the challenge of trying something new,” Cotter said. “We had the experience of remote learning from last spring to learn from and build on. This time around, we had time to create a more effective learning model and make sure we had the proper resources in place to support it.”

She added, “All three of these teachers have risen to the challenge. They’ve gone above and beyond to make sure our kids are keeping pace.”

Photo courtesy of GJSDPleasant Avenue second-grade teacher Ellen Roehl interacts with her remote-only students.

So what exactly does remote learning look like at Johnstown? Teachers at the elementary level use Zoom sessions to connect with their students each day. They teach to a computer screen from their empty classroom, using a number of other technologies to help illustrate concepts in the lesson. Teachers prepare class materials in packets that are picked up in-person by the families two times a month, in exchange for workpackets that the remote student has completed. All-remote students still follow the hybrid gold and purple cohort schedule, which helps to manage the number of students who are simultaneously logged on to Zoom for class.

Every student enrolled in the all-remote model has class with their teacher every school day from 9 to 9:30 a.m. On their assigned color day, they then break down into smaller cohort groups for 40-minute lessons in both ELA and math. Teaching assistants provide the class with 30 minutes of social and emotional learning and 30 minutes of small group lessons.

“The biggest benefit of the all-remote learning model at Johnstown is that it allows for frequent teacher interactions for our remote learners,” said Crankshaw. “It’s been a highly effective system that allows us to continue prioritizing our students and stay laser focused on critical learning standards for our students. We should all be proud of our faculty and staff — and especially our digital leader teachers, who are succeeding at a rather challenging task.”

The all-remote team of teachers at Pleasant Avenue meet several times each week to discuss best practices and bounce ideas off of each other. Just over two months into the all-remote model, they have worked out the kinks, come up with solutions for obstacles they have faced and have valuable information to share with their colleagues on best practices for remoteteaching/learning.

Pleasant Avenue first-grade teacher Catherine Knabe-Bikowicz interacts with her first grade, remote-only students. (Photo courtesy of GJSD)

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