The Remote Learning School (RLS) is a completely remote school model that the high school offered in the beginning of the 2020-21 school year due to increasing numbers of cases of COVID-19. Instead of going into the building, students take classes and electives at home on their technological devices.
The model is a program designed to give students who elect it a safe learning environment.
“This is something completely new for all of us and every day I continue to be so impressed with the work our students, staff, and community are doing to help our school succeed,” said LaCava. “We are so fortunate to also have the support of our central administration who created and continue to support the RLS to make sure all students receive a quality education whether they are in the hybrid or RLS.”
Mr. Michael LaCava, the principal of the RLS, prioritizes an open community as crucial for students to feel connected and grow.
“One of the biggest challenges in the RLS has been building a school community within an exclusively online experience. To help with this, we have a built-in Advisory time for RLS students to connect with the faculty, and we are having community meetings to share ideas as we move forward with the school year,” said LaCava.
The RLS also offers an increased support system for students.
“With a smaller group of students per grade level, we can support them with their individual and academic needs. We also have an amazing staff that works with our RLS students, and they can support these students every day within the RLS schedule,” said LaCava.
The pandemic has paved the way for many learning opportunities and experiences for the community.
“Since we have approximately 500 students in grades K-12 in the RLS, I have been learning what specific needs and supports each staff member and a group of students needs in their particular grade levels. We have unique schedules at each level, so each day I learn new ways to support each ‘school within a school’. No one has created a K-12 virtual school from the ground up so it continues to be a learning experience for all of us every day,” said LaCava.
A new learning experience for Charmi Daas ’23, RLS student, is the new learning system set around the language classes. The high school is collaborating with Middlebury High School where students are given asynchronous interactive activities such as grammar practice.
“We are taking our language classes at Middlebury so we don’t have a teacher specifically from the high school. We would have to email them to ask questions. Middlebury has a bunch of lessons that are spaced over the week and asynchronous, so we mostly watch videos and do interactive assignments. There also are synchronous times where you can get help from your assigned teacher as well. The high school also has help sessions for people who find the system or schoolwork difficult,” said Daas.
The RLS relies on the patience and empathy of the entire community.
“The students were extremely patient and flexible as we worked on the details of the RLS,” said LaCava
“Teachers have been very understanding and empathetic to others in RLS by giving us more time to do assignments,” said Daas.
One of the main concerns from the community has been the extended amount of screen time students would experience. However, the administration has been working to help students have a balanced screen schedule.
“Each class is different and screen time can vary. We are very aware of the need to not have students on screens the entire day and are working to make sure there is a healthy balance,” said LaCava.
“Most teachers give a five to ten minute break. Teachers have been very understanding and empathetic to others in RLS by giving us more time to do assignments, ” said Daas.
Although the RLS seems separated from the hybrid model of the high school, the two models make sure to collaborate and communicate to create a synced community.
“We have had consistent collaboration and communication with the hybrid model. Our staff attend department meetings with the hybrid teachers so that our pacing is consistent and the curriculum is lined up. Our guidance counselors work with the hybrid counselors to support students who were in hybrid but now are in RLS, and overall I collaborate weekly with Dr. Chisum who has been outstanding in making sure our RLS students also connect with the hybrid program,” said LaCava.
Before working at the Wellesley Public Schools, LaCava was an assistant principal at the Chelmsford high school as well as an elementary school for seven years in Chelmsford. In the Wellesley Public Schools district, LaCava has worked as K-12 Director of Performing Arts for the past three years.
“I have been able to learn about each grade level and each school in addition to meeting and collaborating with building administrators at all levels. I believe all of these experiences helped me prepare for my role in the RLS,” said LaCava.