The following article was originally published in Sun Community News on Aug. 26, 2020.
Beekmantown’s Mannix leads virtual learning class
By Keith Lobdell
BEEKMANTOWN | Superintendent Dan Mannix wanted his school district to be prepared for a moment like this.
Shortly after arriving at Beekmantown Central School, Mannix started to develop a program to address student needs to learn remotely given modern technology.
That program became vital in March when COVID-19 shut down schools across the nation and forced schools to teach their students in their homes virtually.
On Aug. 13, Mannix was the featured presenter at a College for Every Student (CFES) training session on strategies for building a successful virtual learning model, which was done via webinar.
“We have been a partner with CFES for the last seven years,” said Mannix. “They allocate leaders from CFES to work with our district and our students, so they were embedded in our program when we went into the shutdown in March and were able to share with CFES what we were doing.”
Mannix said one of his first experiences with virtual learning was with a student from Montreal, who was able to attend her classes virtually after getting sick and was able to keep up with her classwork.
“I was sold right there,” he said.
“We had a faculty meeting seven years ago talking about how we did not want to be on the wrong side of the virtual learning equation and what we wanted to do to realize the potential of 21st-century learning,” Mannix added. “We were on a long journey just focused on being the right thing to do for our students and how we can do it.”
Beekmantown implemented 1-to-1 Chromebooks for students six years ago and continued their push for a virtual program by working to help provide hotspots for students in areas where the internet was not available and putting internet hot spots on their fleet of school buses, allowing students to be productive during travel to and from home, as well as field trips and sporting event travel.
“It’s about balancing the playing field,” Mannix said. “If you want to pipe in and get your education, then we are going to give it to you.”
Being able to “pipe in” became the norm in March, and Mannix said his team was ready to adapt.
“We had the infrastructure because we studied and worked very hard to understand what infrastructure needed to be in place, even before the pandemic,” he said. “They would all probably want in-person learning (to start this school year), and that is better, but they understand what is in front of them and we are not intimidated by what is in front of us.”
CFES director of communications and advancement Jon Reidel said Mannix and Beekmantown took advantage of being forward-thinking.
“Mannix is already looking to the next phase of virtual learning and teaching,” he said. “He’s convinced that the world has changed since COVID-19, prompting questions about critical aspects of education, such as how we will use brick and mortar schools going forward.”