June 12, 2020

Learning to turn on a dime:

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

Babcock Ranch Telegraph Correspondent


Shannon Treece, principal at the growing Babcock Neighborhood School, had never seen anything quite like the near 10-week challenge that concluded the spring semester of the 2020 school year that ended the last week in May. Neither had the school’s 25 teachers or its 420 students and their families.

“It happened so fast, the pandemic and the closing,” Principal Treece says about school doors everywhere being ordered to stay shut after spring break. “That was the hardest thing — even at our innovative school with all its out-of-thebox thinking, it was a challenge. I would put my teachers and students and parents up against anybody. But it literally took a village. I believe that now. Because it did. It took a village.”

The BNS community has come through the year with a new sense of purpose and a new strategy, but with troubling questions remaining, too, she allows.

Summer programs for students have been modified but still exist, and preparations are underway for whatever the 2020-21 academic year brings, much of which remains to be seen.



In the earliest days of COVID-19, the principal says, “We didn’t change a lot because we thought it would last two or three weeks and we’d go back to normal.” Staff created a rigorous class schedule with live, online instruction every day for students working at home on their laptops or tablets.

For families who had just one computer but two or more children, the school provided additional computers. Staff did a lot of paperwork, Ms. Treece says, because the computers were purchased with federal dollars and had to be tracked. But they did it, and did it rapidly.

“Our focus was on keeping the academics as rigorous as possible, but also on having a touchpoint with our students every day,” she says.

But it was too rigorous to be maintained over the long haul.

“As we saw we’d be closed for the rest of the school year, we went to every other day — so, for example, English or math every other day with the teacher, and practice skills for students to do on the alternate days.”

Students and staff at Babcock Neighborhood School worked together and rose to the challenge. LAURA TICHY-SMITH / BABCOCK RANCH TELEGRAPH

Students and staff at Babcock Neighborhood School worked together and rose to the challenge. LAURA TICHY-SMITH / BABCOCK RANCH TELEGRAPH

Staff met in Zoom meetings to strategize.

“We learned that whenever we need to pivot and change, we can,” the principal says.

Together they learned what would work, what needed to be changed and how to make it happen.

Parents became very much a part of the process because Ms. Treece made videos for them describing her plans.

“I was very up-front. I told them some of this would work and some not. That was our mentality.”

The challenge has not disappeared, unfortunately.

This year, she says, summer school will not take place in person and in classrooms, the traditional way, “but students not quite finished with the course work for a given grade can arrange to do so with teachers who are willing.”

Nor will enrichment programs be offered in typical fashion, with kids attending various summer camps.

“I don’t know what those will look like yet,” Ms. Treece says, “but it will probably be groups of nine or less. Typically there are 20 in a group.”

School administration is also working with cleaning services to ensure the school is properly sanitized.

It’s one little thing after another, with a big thing they all face come fall: How — or if — to reopen.

“Everybody’s talking about a hybrid model so you can spread students out — and it’s a viable model for us. But the challenge is that students in kindergarten through second or third grade simply need face-to-face interaction with a teacher. They won’t be able to learn virtually the way older students can.

“So these students could come at different times of the day, for example. But no matter how it’s done, they need that one-to-one meeting with teachers.”

And if parents aren’t comfortable sending their students, “Can we still provide instruction?” Ms. Treece wonders.

“And for students who still need a school to go to every day, can we do that? The answers are hard.”

But if anyone can answer those questions — if anyone can do it — it’s probably Shannon Treece and the BNS village.