South Orangetown Central School District

The District launched its K-12 distance learning program on March 31 after weeks of preparation, including a virtual Superintendent’s Conference Day to provide teachers with tools, training and time to prepare for remote teaching and learning.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Brian Culot, Ed.D. has been working closely with district and school administrators, instructional coaches, teachers, and staff to develop and support SOCSD’s distance learning program.

How is distance learning going?

It is amazing to see the hundreds of video lessons and thousands of engaging activities and assignments teachers and staff have created for our students. The participation rate in distance learning is over 98% in all of our schools and the feedback from our school community has been very positive. In South Orangetown, we are very fortunate to have talented teachers and staff who have taken extraordinary steps to enhance their digital platforms to engage our students from home.
We are focusing on helping students successfully learn and apply the curriculum being taught in each content area. This will ensure that they don’t experience regression, and can move onto the next level or course when we resume normal schooling. We are also continuing to work towards more of a balance between the teaching of content and assigned work, including continuing to leverage video conferencing for lessons and activities. I was happy to see that many of our administrators and school leaders also made videos to connect with our students and families.

How is the District supporting teachers with the transition from classroom teaching to distance learning?

We have created a more formal professional development structure and launched the SOCSD Distance Learning Portal. The Instructional Coaches and SOCSD teachers, along with Innovative Designs in Education (IDE) are offering a variety of remote learning training opportunities for our staff. These include live training as well as the previously recorded sessions we have held on Google Classroom, Zoom, Schoology, and others.

Here are a few examples of the sessions: Video Conferencing with Zoom; Supporting Special Education Students in Remote Learning; Remote Co-Teachers: A Virtual Partnership; Teaching Math Online: Tools for Writing Equations; Supporting ENL Students in Remote Learning; Building Social and Emotional Learning at Home; Setting Up Remote Structures to Support Remote Learners; Using Screencasting Tools to Clone Yourself; and, Leading Synchronous Instruction.

What are some key things that teachers and administrators have learned so far?

Our staff has been keen on the notion that this isn’t just about delivering quality instruction online; we’ve transitioned to a fully remote learning format as a crisis response measure in the midst of a global pandemic. Staff recognize that parents are juggling working, in many cases remotely or in person, with trying to help their children participate in distance learning–this true for our staff members as well. Also, we have many families in our school community who are healthcare and essential workers under tremendous stress, while others may be sick or caring for sick family members. Still, others are struggling with the loss of their jobs, income, or businesses.

Despite all of this, our entire school community has come together to do all we can to keep our students on-track academically and social/emotionally in ways which are caring, responsive and developmentally appropriate. The instructional practices teachers have taken careful thought and time to create and share with students has been key to the success of SOCSD Distance Learning. Live video or pre-recorded lessons also help our students continue to progress, while addressing the social isolation students and teachers might be experiencing during this crisis.

A few examples of how distance learning “looks”: