District providing professional development to help staff navigate 2020 schooling challenges

Administrators stressed they are prepared to make the shift to their hybrid learning model on Nov. 9.

Are Cherry Hill Public Schools poised to open their door and welcome students back through their doors on Nov. 9? School officials at the Tuesday, Sept. 29 Board of Education meeting stressed the answer to that question is a “yes.”

Dr. Farrah Mayhan, the district’s director of curriculum, said since the start of school, the district has heard concerns from students, parents, teachers and community members. She said they’re listening to these concerns, and the districts Return to Learn committees are prepared to discuss and address these concerns.

In the week’s ahead, the district’s Return to Learn subgroups will look at screen time, continuity of schedules, work volume, length of the academic day, balance of synchronous and asynchronous learning, technology needs and grading assessments.

Mayhan said 76 technology- based professional development sessions were offered to staff leading up to the first weeks of school. She said the district did their best to be proactive in response to staff needs, but now, teachers are saying they need different kinds of support. 

A survey was sent to all CHPS staff on Sept. 21 asking staff what professional development they still need to be successful in a remote learning environment. Based on the feedback they’ve received thus far, staff are asking for training on how to administer assessments, creative ways for students to submit videos, ways to facilitate small group learning and more information on how to teach boht in-person and remotely amid a hybrid model.

Mayhan said the district continues to work on building their catalogue of professional development offerings, and as such, they recognize the importance of making sure staff are able to adapt and adjust.

“No professional development, no training or formalized schooling we had could have prepared us for educating our students in a pandemic,” Mayhan said. 

Superintendent Joseph Meloche commended staff on their efforts thus far.

“I believe our staff members are doing a herculean job of lifting this mountain and moving it forward so that the learning continues for our students; that’s not going to come without challenges,” Meloche said.

He said while the district would love to have a tiered return to learning that would bring students back in stages earlier than Nov. 9, he’s not sure that’s possible. The district is currently engaged in conversations about that possibility, and if they are able to make that happen, they’ll provide families with advance notice.

In the meantime, some extracurricular activities have resumed on campus. At the middle and high school level, sports are back in session, and at the high school level, marching band is also back in-person practice.

Meloche thanked staff members for arranging transportation to and from campus for students who need it to attend sports or marching band practice. He also reminded families watching that the district is limiting the number of people who can attend athletic events and to check their website for more guidance on that before attending.

Mayhan said while they may not have gotten this new way of schooling right out of the gate, they’re working hard to remedy that. 

“We will get this right; we are Cherry Hill,” Mayhan said. “We pride ourselves on being the leaders and being at the forefront. Right now, we are taking a few steps that may have taken us in the wrong direction, but we will get back on track because others are looking to what we are doing, and we have been the leaders and we will continue to be the leaders.” 

To stay up-to-date, visit the district’s website at https://www.chclc.org