Success Story: We thrived through the 2020-2021 School Year by designing and running our own virtual academy!
San Marcos School responded to the pandemic by creating a Virtual Academy for the 2020-2021 school year. It was crucial for our school to offer virtual classes based on the responses to our parent survey and the needs of our staff.
We are proud of the rigorous and interactive program we created and plan to utilize it in the classroom going forward. Admissions to the virtual academy were outgoing through the year, and we accepted students all the way through April 2021. We ended the year with more students than we started! Tuition remained affordable through the program at just $50 per month.
At the end of our virtual program, we had delivered over 1,000 virtual classes to our preschoolers! This was no small feat considering that most of our staff were also homeschooling their own young children during this time.
The cornerstone of our Virtual Academy was private Spanish and English classes. Each child had thirty to forty-five minutes a week with the teacher, depending on her age, in addition to all other classes. We also offered private tutoring sessions with teachers and volunteers, to focus emerging skills such as number recognition, patterns, phonics, prior reading, and more.
Thanks to a generous grant from the United Way of the Central Carolinas and the Foundation for the Carolinas, every student who needed one received a Chromebook. Thanks to the help of the North Mecklenburg Women's Club and members of our loving community, each child received practical supplies like a chalkboard, writing tray, sensory container, markers, craft supplies, pencils, and more. We worked alongside our partner Caterpillar Ministries to ensure all our students had access to the Internet, even if that meant multiple hot spots in one home.
Our classes were designed by teachers with virtual learning experiences and were interactive and fun! We offered "Handwriting Without Tears", Music and Movement, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEAM), language arts and phonetics, library with professionals from the CharMeck library, books with community volunteers and much more. Our phonics program was designed by a certified phonics educator.
Our virtual classes began at 9 am and ended at 12:30 pm every day, Monday through Friday. All of our classes were accessible by clicking a single link in a simple Google doc that was regularly updated. Homework was sent one month in advance to give parents flexibility. Parents received all the slide shows, videos, games, and resources that teachers used with students so they were prepared to help children. We kept it simple, interactive and fun!
In the fall semester of 2020, and beginning again in March 2021, we offered in-person and socially-distanced outdoor classes at Caterpillar Ministries every Friday. Masks were required, even outdoors. We did outdoor painting classes, dancing, yard games, scavenger hunts and more.
In April 2021, we began offering limited classes indoors and in-person at our school campus at Hopewell, 10500 Beatties Ford Road in Huntersville. Thanks to a grant from the United Way of Central Carolinas and the Foundation for the Carolinas, we were able to equip our school with the resources necessary to provide safe blended learning, such as desk dividers, masks, contactless thermometers, and contact free dispensers.
By offering blended learning, families who chose to stay virtual could do so, but families who wanted to be on campus could return. We began with one day per week for our library session and worked up to a four-days-per-week schedule, keeping our Fridays at Caterpillar program open so that we could join our in person students with our virtual academy students. This was so important because some of our virtual families lacked transportation. Our primary goal was the safety of the children. All participants over the age of 2 years old and staff wore masks, observed social distancing as much as possible, and washed hands frequently.
We are so thankful that we are able to report that there were ZERO cases of Covid-19 resulting from our programming.
We promoted ten prepared pre-Kinders; one who began reading and actually tested into first grade!
We are truly humbled by the hard work and dedication that our teachers put into delivering exciting online classes, especially while also taking care of their own children. There will hopefully never be another stressful year like 2020, but La Escuelita San Marcos stands ready and equipped in the event of another surge. With a recent network upgrade, our building is equipped with Wi-Fi to allow teachers to deliver virtual classes from their classrooms, or of course, from home.
If you would like to know more about how we designed our own Virtual Curriculum for the benefit of your school or homeschool, we would be glad to help. Please write us at Learn@LeSanMarcos.org!
Just your child and the teacher working on language acquisition, social-emotional skills, counting and more!
HANDS ON LEARNING
Real tools, manipulatives and sensory materials that will keep your child engaged and occupied while learning Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and more!
ACCESS TO TECHNOLOGY
Access to virtual learning for those that need assistance through a generous grant from United Way of Central Carolinas and Foundation for the Carolinas.
Teacher lead exercises with 2-4 students of social stories for social thinking, flexibility and conversation.
AWARD WINNING CURRICULUM
Teaching Strategies Kindergarten readiness in 38 growth areas. In house, curated content from award winning trainer and certified TESOL teacher.
WORK LIFE BALANCE
Activities that children can perform independently so parents can work from home, take care of tasks or just enjoy needed time to themselves.