It is fall in New England and the beginning of the school year. But this back- to -school season is anything but routine. With the pandemic, it’s hard to predict what may happen when the schools open. Parents everywhere are pondering their options.
When it comes to the youngest students, some parents of preschoolers favor distance learning as a way to keep kids at home and engaged without the health risks.
Reed Donahue, the owner and director of the Little Red Wagon PlaySchool in Newton, Massachusetts has recently converted her well regarded program to an on-line /virtual format to meet the needs of parents who prefer remote learning for their preschool age children.
Like most Massachusetts preschools, Little Red Wagon PlaySchool was required by the state to shut down in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Donahue had to let go of most of her teachers and scrambled to pivot her curriculum on Zoom to finish out the school year for her families.
“I put the challenge out there to my remaining staff that in spite of the pandemic and even because of the pandemic, that we were going to make this the best school year ever.”
Initially, Little Red Wagon PlaySchool’s emergency remote teaching was a matter of survival. But soon Donahue was hearing from new families that wanted to enroll in her Zoom program- and some were from out-of-state.
So for the summer, Donahue launched a 4 -week online program with a mix of current families and new. Donahue had several concerns, “Can we make connections with them? Can we help them make connections with other children that they have never met before ? Can they sustain a 3 ½ hour program? We found that the answers to those questions was yes, yes, and yes. So we have closed down the school’s actual doors and have opened the virtual doors.”
What do the kids and parents like most? According to Donahue, the kids are most engaged with the hands-on science and art projects and during the yoga and movement sessions. Parents loved the consistency of the weekly schedule.
“It’s definitely not childcare, someone does need to be nearby, but once the child learns how to unmute themselves, they are ready to go. ”
For the 2020/2021 school year, Little Red Wagon PlaySchool Online will run Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and families can choose to enroll in either the morning (9:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m.) or afternoon session (1:00 p.m.-4:30 p.m.)