Hybrid and virtual learning are not limited to the students at La Salle College High School. The school’s faculty and staff have seen significant changes to their own children’s education and modes of learning. During the summer, Brother James Butler, FSC anticipated the need for the children of the faculty and staff to learn while their parents work at La Salle. “I am aware that the great diversity of arrangements schools are making to educate children of various ages may complicate the lives of some of our families with school-aged children and felt that we could do something to assist with this situation”. With only minimal modifications, the first floor of Dunleavy House was transformed into a space to provide academic support for as many as fourteen children of faculty and staff whose schools have gone virtual or who are on the off day in a hybrid model. With considerable help from Michael Cassidy, the school’s inhouse counsel, and Ana Smith, the Director of Facilities, the program opened its doors on September 9, 2020.
Affectionately referred to as “The Little School”, the children report each morning to Dunleavy House, which was formerly home to the school’s Auction Staff as well as Shared Treasures, a consignment shop operated by Mothers’ Club alumnae. Each child’s family is responsible for supplying an electronic device (laptop, iPad, Chromebook, or other device required by their school), headphones, as well as a snack, lunch, and drink. La Salle provides each student with a desk, an electrical outlet, and wireless internet connectivity.
Each day, 8-14 children arrive between 7:30 and 8:00 am and stay until about 3:30 pm. “It is a service from La Salle for La Salle staff”, remarked Brother James Butler, FSC. “It is not a business. There is no charge. I see it as a cooperative. Teacher parents who use the service extensively are asked to give a free period here and there to relieve or assist the supervisor.”
“The Little School” is generally staffed by two instructors/supervisors who are qualified in early childhood education. They ensure that the children are online and connected with their teacher at school as well as make sure that lessons are being completed. They also provide help with worksheets and other assignments. Janel Mullen, who spent the last three years as a teacher at Upper Dublin Lutheran Nursery School, is present each day. She is assisted by Heather Norman, who spent over ten years on the faculty of Gwynedd Mercy Academy, along with Gina McShane, who taught at Mother of Divine Grace School in the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia.
When their schedules permit, faculty and staff members assist at recess and other times throughout the day. “Every parent stops by at some point during the day”, commented Janel Mullen. They help in some capacity either with their own child or with a small group.”
The program conforms to the same health and safety precautions being utilized across the parking lot in the school. Temperatures are checked each morning and the children are required to wear masks.
Mr. Thomas McCaffery ’01, the school’s Assistant Dean of Students and a member of the Math Department, has two children in the program. Brendan (a 1st grader) and Logan (a 4th grader) have “thrived” in the program. “Janel and the other instructors make certain that the boys do all of their work and do it correctly. They make my life easier as I don’t have to spend a lot of time with them at night helping them with homework or reviewing their work. Both boys are doing very well in school having benefitted from a learning environment where other children are present as well as being able to socialize with other children.”
The program is scheduled to run through December and will continue in the new year should the need exist.