There are a million aphorisms about the importance of being prepared for an emergency.
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Ben Franklin
“I don’t believe in luck, I believe in preparation.” – Bobby Knight
“Preparation for tomorrow is hard work today” – Bruce Lee
Some would argue that it was impossible to prepare for an event like COVID-19 and the subsequent move to online learning. But at KCS, we have actually been preparing for situations like these for some time now. Over five years ago, we created and put into place our Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Plan, a comprehensive set of responses to a number of drastic “what if?” scenarios that is audited and updated annually.
One of those scenarios outlined in the plan is a situation where the school’s building is no longer accessible, but the technology infrastructure is still in place. And as we all well know, we found ourselves in exactly that situation back in March of this year. Knowing that this situation – along with many others – could one day arise, we have been preparing for the worst by making regular strategic updates over the past few years to our technology infrastructure.
We transferred workloads and data to the cloud, along with our email system. We drastically cut down on local applications that have to be saved on laptops, and moved instead to web-based subscription programs. We also made an intentional choice to move away from desktop computers and towards a full fleet of microphone- and webcam-enabled laptops for all faculty and staff. Additionally, our faculty and students received a great deal of tech training to help them get used to Sesame, Edmodo, and the Google suite of apps. All of these decisions meant that our technology was nimble, mobile, and ready for remote teaching and working, long before COVID-19 came onto the scene.
When March rolled around and we realized that we had to “flip the switch” and move to an online learning scenario, we made the leap and got everyone ready. The academic leadership team developed an at-home learning plan that incorporated strong academics, mental well-being, and meaningful connections between faculty and students. We then took this plan and used it as a guide for our next steps. We had all staff and faculty take part in intense, focused, and scaffolded professional development designed to help them make effective use of Google Meet, Edmodo, and Sesame as communication and teaching platforms.
On the first Wednesday after March Break, we officially launched the KCS At Home Learning Program with homeform Meets at every grade level. Each class was assigned a “homeform buddy”, who would set up, record, manage, and post each Meet. By the second week of classes, we were hosting specialist classes for each grade, and all faculty were well versed on how to set up and run Meets.
Knowing that there was a huge amount of learning for our entire community, we decided to provide additional support for all our faculty, staff, students, and families. We set up a dedicated email for at home learning questions and reassigned staff to increase our Help Desk team from one full-time person to two full-time and three part-time people. Over the first month, that team also provided a great deal of one-on-one training to families and students, to ensure that everyone was able to get online and access all learning resources. That team also provided one-on-one training to faculty, to help them master a range of different strategies and tools that would help them teach online in an effective and engaging manner.
Of course, all the planning and preparation in the world doesn’t mean anything if the people you are working with don’t follow the plan. But if these past few months have taught us anything, it is that we are blessed with a culture of growth and flexibility here at KCS. Our faculty and staff have gone way out of their comfort zone and embraced this situation with positivity, professionalism, and drive. Additionally, our families and students have epitomized our third school rule – Try Your Best! All our students and families have worked incredibly hard to take on these new challenges, and we could not be prouder of them.
If you’ll indulge us one more preparation-themed quote, we like this one from Colin Powell. “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” We couldn’t agree more, and we think our success in making the leap online comes from the hard work and preparation of our entire community.
- Stacy Marcynuk (Director of IT, Curriculum) & Adam Stoyles (IT Manager)