A Steep Learning Curve and Not Much Time

by David Tarleton, Education Director, PYC Arts & Technology High School

David Tarleton

What started out as a fairly typical, normal school year at PYC Arts & Technology High School did not finish that way at all.

First and foremost, I want to acknowledge our Student Engagement Team, Social Work Team and our teachers for their amazing capacity to navigate uncharted waters.  Thank you!

Here’s a sample of what we experienced:  In February, as we became more aware of the looming COVID pandemic, our staff began talking about using Google Classroom as a means of delivering instruction, and as a way for students to engage with us from home.  At that time, we had a few teachers who used the program but most were starting fresh.

In April, as school resumed after winter break and we were in full shutdown/distance learning mode, we scrambled to connect students with the technology they needed.  Students had the option to either check out a PYC Chromebook or we could get them one from the school district. In some cases, teachers personally delivered Chromebooks and hotspots to the students’ homes.

At the same time, we were mailing out packets of materials to students who had not yet received their technology, to make sure they had work to do as the new quarter got underway.  We had a steep learning curve and not much time to prepare, but both staff and students adapted quickly to our new ways of teaching and learning.

So, what are some of the lessons we’ve learned?

  • We need to reach out to students as we implement distance learning –
    early and often.
  • Students were most active in the evenings and late at night.
  • Students struggled with navigating the technology more than we expected.
  • Student learning styles and preferences became more apparent the longer they were engaged in distance learning.
  • Providing social work services and meeting the mental health needs of students was very difficult.

What will the upcoming school year look like?

  • We’re currently planning for three different options including regular, everyday face-to- face classes; distance learning like we did this past spring, and a hybrid where students come to school in smaller numbers, one to two times a week, combined with distance learning.  We will be ready to switch from one scenario to another at any time.
  • We’ll implement strict protocols, following guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health and the CDC, among others, to ensure the health and safety of students and staff members whenever they’re in the building.
  • We’ll create more online, interactive resources for students.
  • We’ll incorporate use of new learning spaces at the Capri, as possible.
  • We’ll continue to raise the bar by engaging students fully in their education.


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