Director of Curriculum: ‘Unprecedented times’ in education
Bachenheimer addresses virtual learning, SATs, AP testing concerns
March 17, 2020
(Editor’s Note: Smoke Signal reporters planned to attend Monday’s Board of Education meeting. However, due to suggested COVID-19 precautions, they chose not to attend the meeting and instead used the livestream for its reporting.)
Director of Curriculum Barry Bachenheimer addressed concerns over virtual learning, the college planning process for seniors, and the cancellation of March and May AP and SAT testing at the Board of Education’s meeting Monday afternoon.
“We are in unprecedented times when it comes to education in New Jersey,” Bachenheimer said. “The state put a memo into effect allowing schools to implement virtual days that count [towards] the 180 day [requirement].”
Pascack Valley switched to virtual learning on Monday, March 16, since it was announced that all Bergen County schools would be closed for two weeks until reassessment due to coronavirus precautions. Bachenheimer said that PV has utilized virtual learning days four previous times on Feb. 12 of 2014, Feb. 2 and 3 of 2016, and Apr. 6 of 2018 and “learned hopefully what to do and what not to do when it came to virtual instruction.”
“Fortunately for us, we’ve been using Canvas, which is our learning management system, for many years,” Bachenheimer said. “We’re trying to keep [using] existing tools [that students] have been using [for] awhile.”
The district then developed and submitted a plan to the county Department of Education on March 14 in order to get virtual days to count as an official school day. They began working with the faculty after receiving approval from Louis DeLisio, Interim Executive County Superintendent.
“Our instructions to our students and our teachers was to follow three basic premises: the idea of simplicity, flexibility, and timeliness,” Bachenheimer said.
Bachenheimer said the virtual day plan’s goal was not to overwhelm students with work, but continue the learning and engagement of the classroom. According to the district’s plan, which was shared to the community via email by Gundersen, students are not required to chat with teachers over a live feed, but teachers are available for live discussions through Canvas during their class periods.
“We’re going to continue to have interaction between faculty and students,” Bachenheimer said. “Administrators and supervisors are monitoring instruction.”
The planned two week virtual day period ends a week before spring break. The district has yet to make a decision on if students will return to the PV school building in the week leading up to spring break, since New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy closed schools for two weeks beginning Monday.
“We have received word that we should prepare for a longer period of time where students are learning from home,” district Superintendent Erik Gundersen said.
According to Gundersen, if students must continue virtual learning during that week, the district is “prepared and putting things in the process to make sure we are able to continue to educate students.”
Bachenheimer also answered questions from board and audience members about the accessibility of counseling for seniors who require guidance in the college process. He said school guidance counselors will be available to seniors for college planning through video conferencing.
“[District Supervisor of Guidance and School Counseling Services] Dr. Struncis and his counselors have had several meetings before the end of last week talking about the role of the counselors in the [college process],” Bachenheimer said. “If there are any concerns with anxiety related to what’s going on or students just want to consult with their counselors, they are available the same ways our teachers are.”
According to the CollegeBoard, SAT testing on March 14, March 28, and May 2 is cancelled. Students registered for any of these dates will be reimbursed, as the CollegeBoard plans to provide students with additional SAT testing dates as soon as possible. The CollegeBoard also plans to make changes to AP testing this year due to the closing of schools and has announced the possibility of allowing students to test at home.
“The AP program is finalizing streamlined AP exam options,” BOE member Jim Stankus said. “They’re going to let everyone know by March 20 what their decision is and the details of it.”