When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring, Forsyth Country Day School pivoted immediately to virtual learning and was extremely successful, due to its flexibility as an independent school.
“The novel coronavirus hit us suddenly, and we were able to adapt quickly,” Head of School Gardner Barrier said. “Students started spring break early and our teachers dived into training. When we all came back from break, our staff threw themselves into the work.”
Unlike many schools across the country, Forsyth was able to offer a largely synchronous (in real-time) schedule for Middle and Upper School and a significant portion of synchronous learning in Lower School, such as morning meeting, live reading instruction via Zoom, and live special events like the third grade State Fair and live science labs.
To find out what was working for students and parents and what wasn’t, the school did multiple parent surveys and used the feedback to fine-tune its approach.
“Feedback from parents and students alike across divisions was overwhelmingly positive,” said Associate Head of School for Teaching and Learning Dr. Michelle Klosterman. “Because we know our families and our students so well, we could differentiate extremely well. We could home in on equity in differentiation, and we did what was right for the individual student.”
Mr. Barrier agreed. “I was most impressed with how attuned our faculty were to the social-emotional AND academic needs of our students,” he said. “The fact that we weren’t on campus together didn’t diminish how much the faculty care, and they did such a fantastic job of supporting students and families alike.”
Nizar, the father of two FCDS preschoolers, wrote: “I just want to thank you all for an amazing job…in e-learning. You guys did a huge leap and adaptation to computer-based learning,” he said. “Our kids are learning and having fun. [I] appreciate all of you in this great work.”
Upper School parent Beth said she was beyond grateful. “Having school be okay, having school have a plan, having school be constant and grounded…that is something powerful and beyond words that you all have given our children and our community. Thank you for the hours and hours of work I am sure you all have done…. Education is of utmost importance, but it pales in comparison to the life lessons of strength, perseverance, and quiet determination that [my son] sees in his school.”
After a summer of intense planning, FCDS was able to start back on campus and in person on August 19th. Over the summer, new health and safety guidelines were created to keep students and faculty safe at school. These include wearing face coverings, social distancing, enhanced sanitation protocols, increased use of outdoor space, and daily health and temperature checks.
Students and families who don’t feel comfortable coming to campus have the option to attend class virtually via FuryFlex, which allows students at home to virtually attend school with their classmates in real-time.
Forsyth Country Day has also planned for the possibility of having to flip back to virtual learning at a moment’s notice, with all teachers attending virtual learning training over the summer in order to further enhance the methods they used in the spring.
“What we were able to do this spring was remarkable because we’d never done anything like it before—no one had,” Mr. Barrier said. “We’ve learned so much since then, and we’re ready for our students and families, no matter what’s ahead.”
If your child would thrive in an engaging learning environment where students are prepared for what’s ahead—no matter what—check out FCDS. Schedule your tour at FCDS.org/admission/schedule-your-tour today!
Favorite Virtual Learning Lessons:
- Lego Challenges (building and sharing creations) and Creation Exploration, where students chose art media and created their masterpieces virtually together in Kindergarten.
- A diary activity for the times in which we live: “Diary of My Weird Third-Grade Spring.” Students reflected on their moods or feelings and tried to find silver linings each day.
- Fifth-grade 25 Earth Day Bingo activities to get kids thinking about their relationship with the environment and take them outside! Activities included a nature scavenger hunt, creating a model of the layers of earth using sand, DIY binoculars, leaf and other nature rubbings, spring collages, and planting gardens.
- Middle School Art Challenges like a Found Objects Color Wheel, Recyclable Robots, and a nature inspiration art challenge inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy.
- High School history students used Zoom Breakout Rooms to examine primary sources from the Stanford History Education Group on why the U.S. government put Japanese-Americans in internment camps during World War II. Each student became the expert on one document and shared their ideas in a Google doc.
- High School English students went on an Odyssey! Students conferenced 1:1 to discuss how they were progressing on their Odyssey essays, and each student had the chance to have really meaningful discussions with his or her teacher.