NOVA’s Distance Learning Program Takes Flight

Submitted by NOVA Middle School

When Governor Inslee gave the order to close Washington schools, we were ready. NOVA Middle School’s distance learning program launched on Monday, March 16. For students, that meant no interruption of their classes as NOVA moved its program online.

With a dozen teachers and 104 students from grades six through eight, NOVA was able to move swiftly in transitioning to distance learning. A week before Governor Inslee’s order took effect, NOVA’s Head of School, Barbara Mitchell Hutton, called faculty and administration together to develop a plan to keep classes going. When the Governor’s order came, NOVA’s program was ready to take flight.

Every school day from 8:30 to 3:00, a suggested schedule for students allots one hour for each class. Following the regular NOVA school schedule, academic core classes are in the morning and enrichment classes are in the afternoon. Lessons and assignments are self-paced, with teachers guiding students and checking daily to inquire about their progress.

Teachers work from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., planning, researching, and delivering content for their classes, as well as grading and responding to student work. Students can email anytime during those hours, or plan on interacting with their teachers during dedicated office hours.

With interactive projects including building forts for a history class and designing levers in science, NOVA’s students have every opportunity to literally take their education into their own hands. Teachers have also shown great creativity in their classes, including Spanish teacher Anne Weldon, who created a telenovella-worthy film for her students.

Ms. Hutton, reflecting on the program NOVA has put together, said, “Certainly the academic program shifted to online delivery, but what we have done is so much more than that. NOVA has always been about creating and strengthening relationships. We have carried that driving value into our manifestation as a virtual community.”

Reaction from the student body and their parents has been overwhelmingly positive. One current parent, commenting on a NOVA social media post, said, “Thanks for bringing joy into their days.”

NOVA Middle School is an independent school located in Olympia, Wa. Established in 1992, NOVA is the only middle school in the South Puget Sound that provides a full-time program for highly capable students.

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