Rowntree Montessori Schools (RMS) has just completed our seventh week of a new school year that began amid the Covid-19 pandemic and our teachers and students are adjusting well to the new “normal”. This past spring, as Ontario schools shut down over the March Break, our school quickly pivoted from a typical year in the life of Rowntree to one in which all teaching and learning was done online. The public health situation evolved over the course of the summer, and by September, we found ourselves in a very unique circumstance in which approximately 60% of our families were comfortable returning to school, while the remainder preferred to continue learning from home.
Using a Concurrent Teaching and Learning Model
With the summer to prepare for any number of outcomes, we decided upon a concurrent teaching and learning model in which each of our classrooms included both in-class and at-home students. The overwhelming advantage of this approach has been the school’s ability to maintain consistency for our students, as it has allowed for a seamless transition between in-school and at-home learning. For a student experiencing minor symptoms, staying at home could be achieved without any disruption of academic continuity. He or she could simply join the same class, with the same teacher and the same classmates, from the comfort and safety of home. This model also has considerable benefits should it again become necessary to close our physical campuses for any period of time. Furthermore, when it is ultimately safe for all students to return to school, they will be able to do so within a consistent classroom community that has developed over the course of the academic year.
A Pandemic Proof Programme
While the development and execution of our concurrent teaching and learning model has been far from easy, the school’s faculty has been able to transform what we learned last spring into an extremely effective, yet flexible, and essentially pandemic-proof programme. What is perhaps most striking of all is how quickly our new model has truly become a new normal. Just a year ago, none of us could have imagined a school functioning as ours is today. Firstly last March, in a matter of a few days, and now, after only a few months, we have been able to ensure the continuity of the Rowntree school experience throughout the many challenges that we have all faced in 2020. While our tech-forward approach over the last several years positioned us very well to make the necessary changes, it has been the overall resilience of our organization, especially that of the students and teachers, that has our current reality possible. The unique combination of collective skill and character that has come to define Rowntree in 2020 has allowed us to create a new normal in an ever-changing and unpredictable world.