By Guest Blogger Tracie Catlett, Head of School at Greensboro Day School

Some are calling it a miracle. Some are calling it a disaster. How schools across the country have transitioned to distance learning has no doubt created an un-level playing field for families everywhere. The schools that prioritize relationships and have the ability to ensure online accessibility for all families ultimately make students the winners.

An effective distance learning program should transcend academics and include wellness components, counseling, advisory courses, tutoring, and extracurricular activities. Strong academic performance is associated with students who report having personal connections with adults and physical activity positively affects cognitive development and memory. Distance learning programs shouldn’t require students to be online all day long. The best academic experience offers a blended approach: students can remotely see their teachers and students and work collaboratively online (synchronously), and students can unplug to exercise, read, research, and do science experiments autonomously (asynchronously). We know staying plugged in all day isn’t the best practice. Balance is key to teaching and learning success.


As we prepare for the 2020-21 school year, schools should be looking ahead and preparing to operate in one of three models: on-campus, a hybrid blend that includes on-campus and off-campus learning, and distance learning. Safety should be every school’s number one priority. Staggered schedules, student-to-teacher ratios, cleaning protocols, restroom management, health services, and wayfinding are just some of the essential components schools must manage before students return to campus.

There is a lot to learn from schools in other countries, and after some rest this summer, teachers will need to deepen their toolbox and continue training so they can be ready for all modes of learning. Being nimble is essential to student success.

In May, Greensboro Day School announced the launch of GDS Online, a comprehensive academic program for students in grades 7-12, a brand new addition to the existing on-campus classes. The program can be taken as a full-time student, as a part-time student (outside of Guilford County) seeking to supplement a current program of study or a single course.

Whether teaching online or in-person, teachers are the real heroes after all, and the student experience should be at the heart of every distance learning program.

Learn more about Greensboro Day School by scheduling a campus tour, now accepting applications for students age 2 – grade 12 in preparation for the first day of school on August 19, 2020.

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