In the Midst of Pandemic, Barnhart School Provides Connection, Community, and Meaningful Education
Barnhart School in Arcadia, CA, one of San Gabriel Valley’s best kept private school secrets, has provided excellent academics, strong social-emotional support, and a vibrant and diverse community for over sixty years. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school was able to nimbly pivot and offer a distance learning program in mere days that keeps active learning happening and kids connected. According to Laura MacRae-Serpa, parent of a second and sixth grader, “Barnhart’s leadership, teachers and support staff rallied to transfer elementary and middle school curriculum on-line in three days. They measured successful learning by checking in with students and families for feedback regularly.”
In both the Elementary and Middle School programs, learning is flourishing. Students were given iPads or Chromebooks prior to leaving campus in March for remote learning so they could all have online access to their classes. The staff has done an exemplary job onboarding students in using Google Classroom and Suite, as well as auxiliary apps such as Seesaw, Flipgrid, and of course Zoom for meetings. Parents have appreciated the consistency and clear expectations that teachers have provided, as well as the robust curriculum that is still being held remotely. According to Amanda Tracey, parent of a first and fifth grade student, “Barnhart did not miss a beat in launching their outstanding program on to an effective and efficient online platform. My children are engaged with their classmates and teachers throughout the day, and have not fallen behind academically or socially. Barnhart’s commitment to its students and families makes it a standout.” And sixth grade parent Megan Crossland stated, “Within my network of friends and work colleagues, we’ve been comparing notes on how our kids’ schools have dealt with distance learning and I’ve been very impressed with how seriously Barnhart has taken and executed on this commitment.”
Even remotely, staff have been able to preserve important traditions and have even added some fun new ones. Daily, elementary students head to their morning meeting and middle schoolers their advisory on Zoom for fun, social emotional connection, and to preview the day.
Elementary teachers have gotten creative by creating a real world ‘Guess Who?’ game on Zoom, Guess that Baby, and even a virtual field trip to Disneyland! In addition to the morning meeting, teachers have engaged students with quirky new traditions. Kyle Kever, fourth grade teacher, records episodes of Fireside Reading for his students that are highly entertaining and reminiscent of Masterpiece Theater (and even had a special Star Wars episode)! Students can start out their day with the daily Bust a Move! Dance party with Mrs. Singer, the Assistant Head of School. When the Kindergarten play (a tradition that every grade at Barnhart does) seemed like it would be canceled due to social distancing, Kindergarten teacher Adrienne Badzey and Elementary music teacher, Natalie Yoder, saved the day by splicing together students recordings so the show could go on! Similarly, the school’s talent show, Kaleidoscope, continued virtually as did the annual Dance PE night extravaganza. The weekly virtue, a core tenet of the Barnhart ethos, also continues through virtual chapel videos so that our students can still embody good ethics. Students have weekly meetings with their Spanish, Art, Music, and Library specialists, and also receive physical education instruction virtually on a daily basis. Parent Laura MacRae-Serpa adds, “Support teachers and leadership regularly visited on-line classes to say hello or participate in uplifting activities and games. School performances were facilitated on-line instead of being canceled. Experiences like these have allowed our children to successfully maintain their sense of belonging to the Bobcat community.”
In the Middle School, traditions are being preserved much to student delight. Students hosted a virtual spirit week on flipgrid, and also host a daily ‘What’s for Lunch?’ club where anyone is welcome to come and hang out. The seventh and eighth graders have been able to continue to meet their Kindergarten and First grade buddies and to do activities with them. Art, band, yearbook, and drama continue to meet to offer students outlets for their creativity. In addition to the multiple touchpoints a day that students have to interact and connect, the middle school staff is available to their students via one-on-one Zoom meetings. Teachers conducted two student surveys to ensure they were meeting student needs in terms of instruction, availability, and support. Additionally, a virtual graduation ceremony will honor eighth graders for their accomplishments. Parent Amanda Tracey opined, “Barnhart teachers are in tune with their students’ learning styles and academic and social needs. They do an amazing job making their classrooms places where every child can thrive!” Parent Laura MacRae- Serpa concurred, “We feel Barnhart kept their eye on the whole child during the safer at home transition- not only did they maintain academic standards but also facilitated a sense of community with supportive check ins for students and families.”
In addition to supporting students, parent support has been an essential component of the distance learning program. Silvana Moschella, Director of Admissions and Advancement, hosted the Barnhart Parent Group remotely to ensure parents could connect. The amazing group of parent volunteers hosted a fantastic teacher appreciation week, a remote Fun Run, and a festive Cinco de Mayo celebration produced by our Diversity Committee, complete with a salsa making video and a folklorico video starring Barnhart students who observe the celebration. Ensuring parent support has been critical to the Barnhart team during remote learning: the administration issued two parent surveys over the course of the past nine weeks to ensure families’ needs were being met. To foster connection and support, the administrative team also hosted a series of small, grade-level parent support evenings that were co-hosted by a mental health professional. Despite the distance, the Barnhart parent community remains engaged and connected.
Although the future of what school will look like come Fall is somewhat uncertain, Barnhart will be prepared, just as they were during this first wave of socially distant schooling. Elementary director and second grade teacher Jaime Hawks stated, “We Barnhart teachers love our students and their needs come first. When quickly shifting online, we learned new technology and found creative new ways to present our content and connect with our students daily, because Barnhart teachers know that learning doesn’t happen without connection. Our students have continued to thrive and I am so proud to be a part of the team that has made that possible.”
Barnhart School is accepting new applicants in a few of its grades. To learn more about joining this amazing community, please email admissions director Silvana Moschella at firstname.lastname@example.org
Barnhart School, 240 West Colorado Blvd., Arcadia, (626) 446-5588 or visit www.barnhartschool.org.