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June 12, 2020
Delaware County Christian School- They’re committed to the community during Covid19
The DC Promise – Announced and Tested by COVID19
Deeming that there was room for a fresh vision and strategic plan, the Delaware County Christian School initiated a community-wide effort to renew its commitment to families. “In January we announced the DC Promise which is this – We prepare students for a life of impact through an innovative and exemplary education rooted in Christ. In March, we announced a new strategic plan focused on innovation, sustainability and community engagement,” said Dan Steinfield, DC’s Head of School. The development and launch of this new commitment and plan collided with the Covid19 pandemic, so they also formed a committee devoted to developing a proposal for a possible distance learning model. They took it on as an opportunity to overcome and grow. Steinfield said, “When we were designing the [distance learning] program in late January/early February, we said, ‘what are our non-negotiables?’ For us, it was a commitment to innovation, community, to excellence in our educational programming, and rooted in Christ. As a Christian school, we wanted to make sure we were still connecting with our students and having the opportunity for that life on life impact.”
Friday, March 13th, the last day students and teachers were together on campus, came quickly, and by the following Monday, distance learning began.“Right away with distance learning, our faculty and staff had an opportunity to step up and deliver,” Steinfield continued, “We were very forward with them, that this is your chance, you have to rise to the occasion and deliver this innovative and exemplary program. This is the first test, and we will be measured. I can’t say it enough; I’m so proud of our faculty and staff. They owned it. I think the work they did, being part of the planning process for the DC Promise in the fall prepared them.” Students found that there was no delay in their education and continued to progress academically. DC also was as proactive as possible, as transitioning students, parents, and teachers from in-person to online learning was no simple task. DC has also continuously adjusted its approach to improve the experiences of students, parents, and teachers.
Real Life Results
Rachel Buttner, a parent of two students enrolled in their first year at DC, said, “Before now, we were homeschooling as we assumed that no school like DC really existed anymore – one with a warm, nurturing environment and an immersion in play and fun-based learning. Our girls have just completed their 2nd and 1st-grade years, and we couldn’t be happier with their experience throughout the year!” Although the switch to distance learning was abrupt, Buttner felt confident in the school and received help and support when needed. Her family soon found themselves creating a daily school-work routine to stay organized and motivated.“Something that DC does very well is instilling in its students a sense of ownership in their own education and faith and classroom environment, so the children that I suddenly had learning at home had been equipped all year for something just like this experience even though no one could have seen it coming – a testament to the DC Promise played out in real-time,” said Buttner.
Mark Dixon, Upper School Head, said, “Something that is true for all teachers is that each one of their classes has its own personality and they tend to function much like a family. In a typical school year, teachers get to see their students almost daily . . . they have their finger to the pulse of their students’ socioemotional well-being . . . they can tell when a student needs an encouraging word or a little bit more of the teacher’s attention.”
Some of the most difficult parts of the pivot to distance learning have been letting go of the physical interaction, a comfortable routine and adjusting to a new one amidst the uncertainty of the rest of the world. “We have acknowledged that we all have experienced grief and loss on some level. It has been important to name that,” said Dixon. “We miss seeing kids every day and even the opportunity for face-to-face closure at the end of the school year. We miss the daily, authentic interactions, which, for many teachers, are a big part of the reason they’ve entered the field of education.”Because they’ve moved to distance learning, community events like Grandparents Day, Mother’s Day Tea, and open houses have happened online. While virtual events might not feel the same, DC kept their promise to keep the community engaged, even if it couldn’t happen in person. “A lot of our community events that take place in the spring, we really took the posturing that rather than cancel them, we would reimagine them,” said Steinfield.
Next Academic Year – Open and On Ground
As DC plans for the future, they’re considering the various scenarios of what the fall might look like (and beyond). While the school is planning to be open and on campus in August 2020, the pivot to distance learning has unlocked DC’s potential for continuous education. Now they have the tools to create space for alternative educational experiences for students beyond the COVID19 pandemic. Dixon concluded, “There are a few things in life which are under our control, many things that are out of our control, and nothing that is out of God’s control. When we are stretched by our circumstances, we desire DC students to recognize challenges as opportunities: opportunities to exhibit courage, wisdom, and hope. This current challenge is an opportunity for our students to lead lives of impact, both now and in the future.”