With so many Camden students having to learn from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, parents are getting an unusual look at how their kids learn. 

While being in school inside classrooms with peers and teachers is the best way for kids to learn, some parents are noticing that remote learning is bringing out other skills and strengths from their children. 

Such is the case with Cassetta Perry’s daughter. Even when her daughter’s school, Camden Prep decided to re-open and run a hybrid model, Perry decided to keep her sixth-grader, ShaMaya, at home to learn. Ms. Perry’s husband has an underlying health condition and she was concerned about ShaMaya putting her father’s health at risk.

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“ShaMaya has always been a great student,” Perry said. “Since transitioning to remote learning, I’ve noticed that she’s become more independent about keeping up with her routines and classwork as well as more confident with speaking up in class. I’m amazed at her progress.”

Perry was among about half of Camden Prep families that chose full-remote learning this fall. The other half chose to send their children to school two to four times a week. Camden Prep opened for hybrid learning in October, but then closed in November as coronavirus cases soared in New Jersey. 

“We’re incredibly proud that we were able to open,” said Giana Campbell, regional senior director at Camden Prep. “We knew we would likely have to close again, but just having our students in our classrooms for a few weeks meant a lot to our staff and families and will benefit our children as they transition back to remote learning.”

In order to open safely, Camden Prep staff spent weeks preparing and designing a school where kids and staff would be safe, socially-distant, but also feel the warmth and joy of being in a school again. 

“We will re-open again when we feel it is safe to do so because the health and safety of our children and staff is our first and foremost concern,” said Campbell. “That said, our commitment to provide a great education for our students remains unchanged, regardless of whether they are at home or in school.”

For now, the Camden Prep educators are focused on not just the basics of reading, writing and math, but all of the other important factors that contribute to a positive student experience. Elementary teachers are holding daily morning meetings centered around celebrating kids individually and helping them feel connected to their school community.

The Camden Prep curriculum includes activities that strengthen students’ own sense of identity and voice. Mindfulness, performing arts and dancing and singing are also a big part of the day.  So are individual calls home from staff to families, just to make sure kids and families are hanging in there.

“We know that COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on the communities we serve,” said Susanna Tagoe, principal of Camden Prep Mt. Ephraim Elementary School. “So being there for our students even remotely is so vitally important. It’s not just about reading and math, it’s about making sure our students still feel seen and loved every single day.”

For high school students, there are a number of after-school activities and enrichment opportunities, recognizing that teenagers need to connect with other teens. A number of classes taking place over Zoom include yoga, Zumba, culinary arts and speech and debate. 

Camden Prep still has open seats available for this school year. In January, Camden Prep will start accepting applications for the 2021-2022 school year for grades K-10. There is no cost to apply or attend. Learn more at: camdenprep.org/enroll/.