KO Online School: School’s Out but Learning is Still On

During school closures, students will participate in a meaningful virtual learning experience in each of their classes. Although nothing takes the place of face to face interaction with their peers and teachers, we hope to make the connections and sense of community as strong as we possibly can in these extraordinary circumstances. We are more than online learning; KO has transformed into an online school with all the advisories, check-ins, extra help, open doors, smiles, and student life our kids have come to expect from their time at KO.

Students should be ready to participate in their classes as they do in their typical classrooms even though learning is taking place at a distance. Bring your energy, your questions, and curiosity as we learn together in this new world. We are so proud of you all!

The New Online Learning Schedules

You will note that the online learning schedule includes abundant breaks. We have built-in good break time to insist on the importance of staying healthy - both mentally and physically - during this stressful time. We all need to take time away from our computers to get outside, connect with family members, eat a satisfying meal, exercise, take a nap. Your health is the most important thing! As we transition into the online environment, we hope that everyone in our community focuses on staying healthy and connected as we engage with our classes in this new way.

The schedule also includes co-curricular activities in which to participate. These are optional, but provide a fun respite during the day. Some events are geared to students only, but other activities permit parents to join in also!

April 23 Town Hall Meeting Notes

On April 23, Head of School Tom Dillow held a virtual Town Hall meeting for parents to submit questions they wanted answered by him and the administrative team. Here is a recap of the conversation from the evening.

List of 10 frequently asked questions.

  • How did you decide on the online school schedule?

    There is not an easy transfer of a brick and mortar school to an online format. Students need to dig into the material and demonstrate their learning in a new way. KO reviewed the practices of schools in Asia, which had moved to online learning prior to the United States due to the pandemic, and we adapted some of their models, learned from their mistakes, and leaned on adolescent brain science to determine the optimum means to deliver meaningful and engaging learning.

    Rather than look at this online format as a problem to be fixed, we leaned into the format and asked, “How do we take advantage of this moment and what can we optimize?” “How can we build in more student research and inquiry” and, “How can we capitalize on students’ ingenuity that this unique situation poses?”

    KO thoughtfully considered how students learned best and created a schedule that is conducive to deep project-based learning and a student’s social and emotional health. For example, the school day starts at 9:00 a.m. because brain science tells us that a student’s cognitive function operates better when the day starts later for pre-adolescents and teens due to their circadian rhythms.

    KO continually surveys the students about their online learning experience and continues to assess the schedule based on their feedback and needs. In a recent survey, 81% of the students validated the schedule and said that it “felt right.” There is a full range of positive, forward-thinking ideas ahead as we determine what gets our students to be as creative and intrinsically motivated as possible.
  • Why are there no classes on Wednesdays?

    This day allows students time to step back, reflect, create, dig deep, and catch up. It also allows for one-on-one meetings with teachers for extra help or one-on-one guidance, time to complete their homework, and the opportunity to continue work they started in class or long term projects. Wednesday morning begins with advisee group meetings, which allows students to connect for a half hour and plan their day to make the most productive use of their time.
  • Why are there no final exams?

    Moving away from final exams to a final project model takes advantage of asynchronous learning. Additionally, we reduced students’ stress levels for preparing to take that one high stakes test.

    The longer format project model gives students the ability to be more creative and hands-on. In order to tackle authentic academic challenges, students engage in design thinking. More time is necessary to ideate, problem-solve, test the feasibility and viability of their concepts, and rework them.
  • Why are there 30-minute breaks in between classes?

    Due to the online learning format, KO believes in the importance of stepping away from the screen for 30 minutes in between classes. Extended periods of screen time have been associated with vision issues, “computer vision syndrome,” with symptoms including strained, dry eyes, blurred vision, and headaches, neck and back pain, less efficient information processing, and poor sleep. The blue light from digital devices suppresses the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, keeping us from having restful sleep.
  • Are the students falling behind in their “coursework” due to the online school format?

    No, but we have to remember that online learning is not going to look 100% like being in the classroom. Before starting online classes, each department assessed their planned curriculum to determine what changes, if any, had to be made to the content of the classes while maintaining the overall goals of each class. The curriculum is a living and breathing thing, and this process of assessment and revising occurs organically throughout the year even during “normal” circumstances.

    Each department is adjusting and making choices depending upon their content area very much in line with the goals of our strategic plan to provide more engaged learning and interdisciplinary opportunities. Rather than only focusing on content, we ask, “What is the essential content for the students to know?” and “Where are places where we can emphasize depth over coverage?” It’s a winning tradeoff and one that we feel is right.
  • How is KO ensuring the sense of community and social-emotional health of the students during the pandemic?

    KO prides itself on its deep personal connections between its students and educators. We believe our advisee system is the spine that holds the students’ connections in place and offers a safe space for a student to work out their challenges and celebrate their accomplishments in a supportive and nurturing manner.

    Throughout the week, KO provides online opportunities for the students to decompress and connect virtually through activities and interesting classes such as cooking classes, yoga, mindfulness training, cartoon drawing classes, and athletic training. In true KO fashion, many student leaders have stepped up and initiated their own online events like bingo, movie, and trivia events.

    If there are other concerns, KO mental health counselors are on hand to navigate your child’s emotions during this unprecedented time.
  • Will there be any reimbursement to families for the portion of the year that students receive education virtually?

    The School administration and Board of Trustees have explored the feasibility of a refund or a credit for next year in the event that there are savings at the end of this fiscal year. However, it is important to understand that the vast majority of expenses go to pay the salaries of our faculty and staff (about 70%), and while there have been some savings during this period (e.g., dining, canceled events), there have also been corresponding losses in revenue from lost rentals, summer camp, and fundraising. Schools operate on an “all-inclusive” financial model, and it is thus difficult to parse out a cost value per particular service or experience per student. As a non-profit institution dedicated to educating our students, we are focused on balancing our budget each year, not accumulating profit. While current projections do not show savings to our budget (in fact, we predict a slight deficit), if there are savings at the end of the fiscal year we will happily offer a refund or credit to next year.
  • Will there be a reduced tuition next fall if we have to go to remote learning for a significant part of next year?

    Although the KO Online School is providing an exceptional program for our students that facilitates meaningful learning, deep engagement, and personal connections, we understand that this is not necessarily the “full” experience that families wish for their children. We understand this reality, and we are investigating how we would adjust our tuition accordingly. Our Administration and Board of Trustees are currently working on various budget models that consider the many variables that would affect tuition rates.
  • What plans does the school have in place for the health and safety of the school community in the fall?

    There is a great deal of uncertainty in how businesses and schools will be reopening this summer and into the fall. The School has established a task force to investigate and establish various contingency models moving forward. Obviously, the health and safety of our community are paramount.

    There will be four plans in place: (1) A plan for repopulation of the campus; (2) a plan for monitoring health conditions to detect infection; (3) a plan for containment to prevent the spread of the disease when detected; and (4) a plan for shutdown in the event it becomes necessary.

    Currently, the school is following the recommendations from the Connecticut Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control, and we will continue to abide by their guidelines and those of science experts, state officials, and the federal government.

    The school would be prepared to move to an online learning model as we have done this spring should there be a surge of COVID-19 cases in the fall.
  • How is KO celebrating its senior class?

    The in-person graduation that was to occur on Friday, May 22, will not take place. However, the School is committed to actively researching ways to hold an in-person event in the future currently scheduled for July 31 should the state lift social distancing measures.

    In the meantime, throughout the month of May, we will continue to hold our senior traditions as wholeheartedly and fully as we can in a new way. We have been working alongside senior parents and the students themselves to ensure that these events are meaningful to our families.

    Some of these traditions include the Senior Thesis Assembly, a celebration of the work of senior English classes on their in-depth research on a topic of their passion; the signing of the senior rock on campus; burning their initials into the senior plaques; the Senior Prefect skit; and Class Night.

    In addition, we will also add some new events, such as special tributes to our graduates on social media and “Senior Wednesdays,” on-campus opportunities for seniors to “drive by” and see some of their teachers, get some “drive-through breakfast,” pick up KO swag, and generally feel the love!

List of 1 frequently asked questions.

  • Suggestions for Improving Wi-Fi

    The placement of the wireless router is very important - keep it a few feet off the floor in a central location where you use your devices the most.  The farther your devices are from the gateway, the weaker the wifi signal and the slower the speed.  Avoid having the router close to microwaves and large metal objects to avoid interference.

    Upgrade your router - If your router is 4-5 years old, think about replacing it.  Newer routers offer better performance and features to support all the connected devices in your home.

    Keep the router up to date - most routers check for updates automatically.  Keeping the firmware up-to-date will improve how devices connect to the network and improve performance.  They can also correct security flaws.

    Deploy wireless range extenders - most routers have a strong enough signal to fill a 1,500 sq ft house.  If you need to fill a larger area, range extenders are a good option. They simply rebroadcast the existing wifi signal, boosting the signal to weaker areas.

    Go into the advanced settings on your router - From the administrator console, you can adjust all sorts of settings to maximize the efficiency of your router.  You can change frequencies, channels and quality of service (QOS). Consult your router documentation for instructions on how to do this.

    Use Speedtest https://www.speedtest.net/ to quickly assess home network performance. Share the results with your ISP if you feel like the speeds are constantly slower than what you are paying for.
      

Norms for the Students

  1. This is still school, and we are a classroom community
    1. Classroom norms are still in effect-- treat the classroom with the level of respect that you would show during a normal class period
    2. Create a good, productive workspace
    3. Pick a quiet, well-lit space with a desk or table (not your bed or in front of your TV)
    4. Be ready with all of your supplies (text, writing utensils, charger, notebook, etc.)
  2. No virtual backgrounds or playing with your appearance on screen
    1. No frozen images/looping videos of yourself
    2. No screenshots or sharing of any class materials or activities/videos on social media or through any other channels-- (there are legal implications!)
    3. Dress appropriately and be presentable for class/prepared to participate. Students should wear clothes that fall within the guidelines of a dress-down day. The goal is for students to be comfortable while still being appropriate.
Expectations for the students while in a video conference (class meetings)
  1. Attendance will be taken at the start of each class. You are required to be present at the start of each class and for the whole conference time (or follow the directions set out by the teacher).
  2. Assume that Google Meet records all of your interactions. Be aware of what you do or say during the time the application is running.
  3. You may use headphones/headphones with a microphone in order to hear the conference more clearly.
  4. As much as possible, students should set up their computer in a quiet, protected space that is conducive to attention and learning. Students should avoid setting up on their beds.
 

Attendance

Attendance is crucial for online learning, and it will be taken at the start of each class. If you know that you will need to miss a certain class, please make sure that your parent/guardian emails Ms. Perkins (in the Upper School) or Ms. Dix (in the Middle School) to let her know.

You can also reach out to your advisor if you know that you will not be able to make a class session.

Technology

KO Online School will make good use of technology as we learn together. If you do not have a reliable computer or wireless connection at home, contact Director of Technology Dan Bateson at or by phone at (860) 233-9631 x. 2431).

We will work with you to arrange some technology options; if needed, you will be able to pick up computing resources on Monday, March 23. One great resource for those seeking wi-fi is Internet Essentials, a Comcast program that provides two free months of wireless connection for new customers. A similar program is offered by Charter Communications. To enroll in the Charter’s free-broadband program for students, eligible consumers must call 844-488-8395. The company stated it will waive installation fees for new student households.

The technology platforms students and teachers will be using for online learning are:
  • Zoom
  • Google Hangouts

Counselors

During these weeks of online learning, counselors will be available to you to talk through any challenges you are having, whether related to stress, anxiety, academic organization, social disconnection, medical concerns, and more. Please do not hesitate to reach out to one of those below:

Chastity Rodriguez, US Counselor: rodriguez.c@kingswoodoxford.org
Laura Doyle, MS Counselor: doyle.l@kingswoodoxford.org
Jackie Rubin, Director of Academic Skills: rubin.j@kingswoodoxford.org
Beth Scully, School Nurse: scully.b@kingswoodoxford.org

How To Support Children

During an outbreak with a new virus, there is a lot of uncertainty and much of the news coverage is distressing. In difficult times, we as a school are committed to offer comfort and a sense of normalcy to our students. We will be working with our teachers to make sure they have access to information to thoughtfully address any concerns students may raise. 

Check Out What Has Been Happening Online

List of 1 news stories.

List of 1 news stories.

List of 1 news stories.

  • The Ancient Art of Politics

    In an election year, we’re all familiar with the political pitches of the candidates. But, behind every great candidate is the brains behind the operation. 
    Read More

List of 1 news stories.

List of 1 news stories.

List of 1 news stories.

  • A Convincing Group With a Dash of Rhetoric

    Maureen Lamb’s Latin 3 class used persuasive speeches to practice using rhetorical devices. Each speech was at least 1:50 but no more than two minutes long, and addressed a topic that the student was passionate about. 
    Read More

List of 1 news stories.

  • No Surface Level Learning for Form I Math

    Using paper or index cards that are the same size, a ruler, a calculator, tape, the attached chart, and their book, students in Ms. Tomkiel's Form I class rose to the challenge of creating and comparing different prisms with regards to the surface area and volume.
    Read More

List of 1 news stories.

List of 1 news stories.

List of 1 news stories.

List of 1 news stories.

List of 1 news stories.

  • AP U.S. History Class Researches 1918 Pandemic

    To add historical context to today’s global crisis with the COVID-19 pandemic, Rob Kyff’s AP US History class is taking a look back on the 1918 flu pandemic, a devastating influenza that caused between 17 and 50 million deaths although some estimates are as high as 100 million. 
    Read More

List of 1 news stories.

List of 1 news stories.

Wyverns on Twitter

Wyverns on Instagram

Wyverns on FB

Located in West Hartford, CT just steps from Blue Back Square, Kingswood Oxford is a private school inspiring co-ed day students in grades 6-12 with a college preparatory curriculum. Empowered students become clear confident communicators, resourceful problem-solvers, and ethical leaders. KO: where unlimited potential meets endless opportunities.
Copyright 2018. Kingswood Oxford.