It didn’t take long for Jones-Gordon School in the Town of Paradise Valley to find its footing in the new age of virtual learning.
Jones-Gordon School host students from first to 12th grade with learning differences such as ADHD, dyslexia and anxiety. The school began its online learning model March 18, two days after the school closed its doors to help fight the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.
“In an impossibly short amount of time, they’ve been able to convert to 100% virtual classrooms while maintaining a high quality of instruction and most importantly, CARE for our student,” An unnamed parent of a ninth grade student said in a prepared statement.
“Someone better be taking good notes as this whole thing plays out because I see the future of education being shaped right now.”
JGS Head of School’s Dana Herzberg’s main priority was to ensure each student had face-to-face time with school staff every day. It was this mindset that led to the planning of a social and emotional support system for 140 kids, according to a press release.
Each JGS student has, at minimum, two immediate persons of contact at the school. Beyond that, the students are strongly encouraged to email or text any faculty member they need at any given time.
Each student is then additionally contacted daily for an individual check-in that covers social, emotional and mental health support. When a student reports they are anxious or unwell, the staff immediately mobilizes to address the issue.
Teachers also offer daily virtual office hours, allowing students an opportunity to get face-to-face help with classwork or to just to chat.
“I think that it’s amazing that my teachers will take time out of planning or working on their next live class and their non-teaching lives to talk,” An unnamed JGS sophomore said in a prepared statement.
The Jones-Gordon School’s goal for academics is to provide as close to the real-life, on-campus experience as possible. This includes providing an opportunity for students to gather in virtual classrooms for live instruction from their usual teachers and a chance to discuss with classmates their schoolwork or to socialize.
Since beginning distance learning, Jones-Gordon has been polling, researching and talking to each and every one of its families to ensure that they are bridging every gap and providing the community with the most holistic, customized learning experience possible, a release states.
“No one has perfected distance learning yet, but we are doing better every day,” High School Director Samantha DePalo said in a prepared statement.
The shutdowns started while JGS students were on spring break and the school worried students would fall into complacency, thinking they had added break time. To combat this, the school continued giving grades through the final quarter and the school says parents applauded the decision.
Another concern centered on hands-on learning such as cooking, P.E. and guitar classes. Rather than canceling electives, JGS decided to allow teachers the freedom to teach material in their way. This led to students assisting with family meals for cooking or receiving a workout routine and daily log for P.E.
Clubs on campus continued to function as well, though virtually. The school’s talent show continued as planned with students sending in video clips or their performance and a viewing party occurring. There are plans for a second talent show before the school year ends.