PEABODY — Superintendent Josh Vadala reports that Peabody Public Schools is pursuing plans for a fully remote, personalized virtual learning experience for students who wish to continue learning remotely next school year and beyond.
While the district has determined it will be returning to fully in-person learning through a phased transition this spring, district leadership has also identified a strong desire and need among some students and families for a continued remote learning option.
Virtual, informational community forums will be held on Tuesday, March 16; Wednesday, March 17; and Thursday, March 18 of next week at 7 p.m. Links for participation will be shared with students and families next week, and members of the district community will be able to ask questions at the meeting as well. Families will also be invited to participate in a survey following the sessions.
Students and families have the option to continue remote learning through the end of this school year as well, and of the district’s 487 fully remote elementary schools students, for example, approximately 320 students in pre-kindergarten through grade five have opted to continue learning fully remotely this school year.
The district has also seen students thrive in its remote learning program this year. Through district analysis of student performance from the start of the school year until January 2021 students districtwide demonstrated 60% growth in English Language Arts and 66% growth in mathematics. This district wide improvement was seen regardless of students’ remote or hybrid learning models.
“Our remote learning program this year has been taught by Peabody teachers, synchronously, with Peabody students. That’s a huge part of the reason why I think our students found success through our program,” Superintendent Vadala said. “They were learning from our curriculum, using district resources and they maintained a connection to Peabody Public Schools. Students may opt for a more permanent remote learning option for a variety of reasons, including medical reasons, social emotional needs, concerns about the ongoing pandemic or because they simply prefer it. Regardless of their reason, we know that we have the tools to create an engaging, personalized remote learning opportunity for these students for years to come and we’re excited to begin planning for what that will look like.”
The district has identified two possible avenues for remote learning to continue next year, and will continue to consider other potential options as well. First, Peabody Public Schools could apply to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to open a fully remote kindergarten through grade 12 school, operating as its own, separate school within the district. Peabody Public Schools would be among the first, if not the very first, districts in the state to offer such a remote program.
The second option is an in-district program through which remote students would be linked to their current school.
Superintendent Vadala has named current Assistant Superintendent Chris Lord as the Executive Director of Remote Learning and Community Partnerships. Lord will oversee the development, implementation and eventual operation of the fully remote, personalized virtual learning program. Lord has worked directly with remote teachers this year to offer support, as well as oversee scheduling and logistics for remote learning. He joined the district three years ago, and served as interim principal and Peabody High School last year. He also played a key role in Peabody High School’s accreditation process last year, through which the school earned full accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
“Our remote teachers did a phenomenal job engaging students this school year, and we saw that our students can and did succeed in a remote learning environment,” Dr. Lord said. “This is an opportunity for our district to create a personalized virtual learning program that can meet students where they are, and I’m looking forward to working with our teachers and staff, students and families to make this happen.”