Riverdale Learning Community
While Riverdale is closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school has developed “The Riverdale Learning Community,” a remote-learning plan based on the guidance of online educators and schools experienced in remote learning.
The Riverdale Learning Community (RLC) is built on three main design principles. First, the school experience cannot be replicated remotely during this unprecedented national emergency. Flexible learning schedules are in place to accommodate the needs of families whose work lives and family routines have been disrupted and strained.
Second, schools are communities built on relationships. Personal contacts with fellow students, teachers, counselors, deans, advisors, the Community Engagement Team, the Learning Research Team, and others are paramount and built into the program. These relationships are an invaluable and distinguishing aspect of the learning experience at Riverdale, and they continue to be nurtured during this time.
Finally, an academic program based on “synchronous learning” ( real-time, via technology) and “asynchronous learning” (independent work incorporating a range of resources) has been designed in the Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools to provide an optimal experience for students.
“We will need to establish new rhythms,” said Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph in a letter to families on March 25. “It is important that we establish new ways of working together that are both effective and respectful of the new dynamics in our lives.”
In the Middle and Upper Schools, the remote-learning program is built on the existing class schedule to give students a sense of predictability and routine. Student calendars have been populated with class meeting times and invitations to join Zoom or Google Hangouts Meet sessions. In the Upper School, each class has five 45-minute blocks of work each week. Students participate in two synchronous (live) classes each week. In addition, they have three 45-minute blocks for independent learning, homework assignments, breakout sessions, and one-on-one time with their teachers. In the Middle School, students have three synchronous periods for each class, two asynchronous periods, and one homework period. The faculty has discretion over how the time is allotted, with attention being paid to the academic, social, and emotional needs of students. Physical education, arts, health, and grade meetings are continuing to meet, and assemblies for the Middle and Upper School featuring outside speakers are held via Zoom. Riverdale plans to award full credit for the successful completion of coursework. This includes all graduation requirements including academic courses, health, arts, and PE.
At the Lower School, every student has been given a device to enable them to connect with teachers and classmates and submit work for feedback. The Lower School is using a combination of Zoom conferencing, teacher produced videos, homework assignments, and supplemental activities. The learning schedules are more flexible given that young children are not developmentally ready to manage their time on their own or learn as productively through screens.
Explained Head of School Dominic A.A. Randolph: “The RLC is a set of various digital tools and resources that are curated and developmentally appropriate to help our students remain in contact with their teachers and keep up to a reasonable degree with their studies in their various classes. At the same time, this is an unusual time and we want Riverdale to play a joyful and productive part in your lives, not add stress to your lives right now. Our approach to remote learning will also be a way of communicating in a particular Riverdale way with our students and families. It is a way of ensuring that learning proceeds, but so does self-development and our ever-deepening community ties.”