Royal Palm School Leads Distance Learning

Royal Palm School Leads Distance Learning Efforts for ESE Students
Posted on 08/04/2020
Teacher Support with reading materials

This upcoming school year, Royal Palm School is “sending school home” to bolster the distance learning experience for its 400 students.

“We really took the time to make distance learning better,” said Dr. Jennifer Corcoran, the school’s principal. “We learned from the spring, got better during Extended School Year, and now we know how to take it to the next level in the fall.”

The school, located off Lawrence Road and Hypoluxo Road, is an exceptional student education (ESE) center that serves students from pre-kindergarten to 22 years old who have significant disabilities.

“Our kids are amazing and do great things,” Dr. Corcoran said. “We are very proud of what we do here.”

Ahead of the first day of school on August 31, staff members are putting together curriculum boxes that are filled with school supplies, visual schedules, behavior charts, physical activity tools like dance ribbons, manipulatives for math and science, books, and even communication boards for students who use them.

All of these materials help keep Royal Palm School students more engaged in learning because many of them are not accustomed to learning on computers.

“I definitely think that we can keep the learning momentum moving forward if they’re engaged,” Dr. Corcoran said.

During Extended School Year this summer, teachers found that creating a set schedule for students for each day with live instruction, small group meets, and built-in brain breaks really helped students stay engaged. That same approach will be implemented for all of the school’s students in the fall.

Students especially enjoyed virtual school-wide dances in the spring that were conducted using Google Meet, incorporating occupational and physical therapy techniques. Dr. Corcoran will plan similar additional events for the fall.

“They absolutely loved seeing each other dance and interact,” she said.

Staff members are calling every family this summer to answer questions and provide resources, including creating a Google Drive folder with tips for parents on distance learning technology and tools.

“The parents are so appreciative to know they’re not on an island all on their own,” Dr. Corcoran said. “To know that we’re here for them, they really appreciate it.”

Royal Palm School’s 120 paraprofessionals and behavioral intervention associates (BIAs) have their own Google Classrooms for training and collaboration. Other paraprofessionals and BIAs participate in the Google Classrooms as well, which enables all staff from around the District to learn from each other.

“I think that this population needs a voice and it’s so important that if we’re doing something right then why not allow others to learn from us so that all students have the opportunity to get a quality education,” Dr. Corcoran said.

Dr. Corcoran shares updates and accomplishments of students and staff on social media, including on her personal Twitter page, @Dr_Corcoran, and the school’s page, @RoyalPalm_RPS.

“We’re going to make the best of it,” she said. “Kids are sending in pictures saying what they’re looking forward to distance learning.”

The staff members are also preparing the school for when students can return for on-campus instruction during stage 2 of the District’s 2020-2021 Reopening Plan. They’ve redesigned the layout of the classrooms and spaced desks further apart for student safety.