Thriving in the “New Normal”: How Bay Area Technology School  continues to operate and support its community through a time of Virtual Learning

In the midst of a global pandemic, schools are challenged to find ways to continue to educate students from home. While most schools have moved to online packets and programs requiring independent learning, BayTech is utilizing live instruction via Zoom to continue to provide their students a quality education. 

“There are health restrictions on students being physically in the classroom, but we still want to provide the same service and resources to all of our students,” states BayTech’s Executive Director, Dr. Feldman.

BayTech began its preparations for the 2020-21 school year anticipating the return of students to campus.  By creating smaller class sizes to allow for social distancing, limiting student interactions in the hallways, providing additional hand washing stations and single stall bathrooms and more, BayTech was prepared to safely open its doors to students this Fall. However, BayTech quickly made the switch to preparing for full online learning after Governor Newsom’s press conference on July 17th stating that “Schools located in counties that are on the Monitoring List must not physically open for in-person instruction until their county has come off the Monitoring List for 14 consecutive days.”

With virtual learning becoming a forced reality for the fall of 2020, the first step BayTech took was providing students with everything they would need for virtual learning. This consisted of passing out over 300 Chromebooks with frequent trips to Best Buy to immediately purchase more when needed. Each student was provided a “supply packet” during the BayTech Drive-By Supply Pickup which was held the week prior to the start of school. 

Ms. Frost, the Middle School Principal, “enjoyed the opportunity to meet with our new and returning students even if it was from a distance.” She commented that, “the ability to make that connection and foster the growth of our community is something that we value here at BayTech.” 

Students received a Reading Period Book, whiteboard and  markers, BayTech uniform Shirt and a Chromebook if needed. Students also received a BayTech Guide to Virtual Learning outlining “BayTech’s Virtual Class Rules and Guidelines.” These guidelines included step-by-step instructions for students on “How to Set Up Your Zoom Account,” “How to Join a Class” and “How to Set-up Your BayTech Virtual Background.” 

 With five regular 45 minute classes plus a reading period and individualized enrichment classes being conducted live each day via Zoom,  BayTech standards are still being upheld. During classes, students are expected to wear their school uniform and utilize one of the specifically designed  BayTech Zoom Backgrounds to allow for student equity and privacy. Classes are held every hour on the hour exceeding the state minimum for teaching minutes per day. The day still begins with a Reading Period, where students are assigned into small groups with a teacher and read together every morning. 

“Continuing the tradition of starting the day with a reading period not only allows me a chance to work with my students on their reading and comprehension skills, but also provides an opportunity to check in with each of my students and start the day on a positive note.” - Mr. Rice, High School English Teacher  

After a lunch break, students join their Eagle Period class, where students utilize adaptive learning technology such as i-Ready and IXL to advance and accelerate their learning. 

“Seeing the growth of our students in areas, such as Math, due to the Eagle Period work students participate in every day is amazing! It also provides me with assessments of my student’s skills so I can better support them.” - Mr. Norman, Middle School Math teacher

Physical Education is offered as a Fitness Period where students workout with their P.E. instructor live for 45 minutes each day even though P.E. requirements are currently being waived by the state.

Along with the live virtual instruction, BayTech is setting students up for success by implementing reading assessment tools like Lexplore (making BayTech the only public school in Northern California to utilize this groundbreaking technology). The use of Edmentum, a highly effective  academic advancement tool is also allowing Baytech students to access higher levels of learning. High School students are able to take live virtual classes with BayTech teachers in conjunction with University of California (UC) Accredited college courses through Edmentum accelerating their education. Mr. Hughes, BayTech’s High School Principal states, 

“The opportunity for our students to utilize programs like Edmentum allows them the flexibility to advance and continue to grow in their education while meeting our UC A-G Requirements for graduation.”  

Virtual learning aside, BayTech has taken the initiative to continue supporting their students outside of the classroom. BayTech’s Nutrition Services continue with meal pick up options for students and families to receive breakfasts and lunches weekly. Mr. Wallace, BayTech’s Director of Operations explains, “students and families are able to come to campus once a week to receive five breakfasts and five lunches that are all premade, delicious food that is ready to eat or reheat and eat.” Students are able to still participate in the State’s Free and Reduced Lunch Program providing reduced or free meals to over 90% of the BayTech students.  Additionally, BayTech has implemented a CARE Team, composed of BayTech teachers, administration, school psychologist, parent liaison and mental health professionals. which is designed to keep students safe, healthy, and engaged. These CARE Team Members are constantly checking in with families and students to ensure that they are supported. 

“Having the CARE Team available to take that extra step of checking in with students and families creates a stronger community between myself, my students and their families. Being a 6th Grade teacher and not having the opportunity to meet all of my students in-person for the first time has been hard, but we have done our best to make everyone feel welcome and a part of the BayTech Community.” - Ms. Ilochi, 6th Grade English Language Arts and Mathematics Teacher.

While navigating the new normal of virtual instruction is no easy task, BayTech has continued to support and serve their students, staff and families during this global pandemic.