Potomac administrators Virchow and Pilkerton collaborate on color-coded schedules

Fulfilling the promise of hybrid learning is all about getting the details right

Patrick Morris, Executive Editor

As the Potomac Upper School has transitioned into distance learning, no two people have been more vital to the evolving structure of the curriculum and schedule than Ms.Tory Virchow, Upper School Director of Curriculum and Academics, and Ms. Antonietta Pilkerton, Upper School Registrar and French Teacher. Their constant communication and collaboration over the summer has been instrumental in the online shift.

“Ms. Virchow spent most of her time working out that daily schedule. We talked about it a lot. One of the things that we wanted to do was to make sure the schedule was flexible enough to work in distance learning, in a hybrid model, and when we get more people back onto campus,” Ms.Pilkerton said. 

While crafting a flexible schedule, Ms.Virchow and Ms. Pilkerton pinpointed creating comfort as a key aspect to reestablishing a feeling of normalcy. “Pacing of the day for students and faculty, prioritizing forming relationships and making connections, and (with regard to the curriculum) focusing on cultural competency is the foundation of what we do,” Ms.Virchow said. 

In addition to focusing on the student experience, the team was also thinking about teaching.  

“We have been focusing on giving faculty a lot of resources for hybrid learning. For example, we got a workshop for them with GOA [Global Online Academy] on teaching and hybrid learning,” Ms. Virchow told us

To adapt to distance learning, the weekly schedule has undergone a major change. Well, you’ve seen the new schedule, and that’s a big change: moving from three anchor days to only one. I’m really excited about that, and I hope students are, too,” Ms.Virchow said. 

Additionally, there has been a change in the number of blocks in a day. A big thing that I think that a lot of people noticed was that we have one less block. So it goes A-G, but we didn’t actually lose a block because everybody would have normally had their lunch scheduled for E or F but we made a lunch period,” said Mrs.Pilkerton.

Even so, as the school transitions from online school to in class learning, some restrictions remain. “The way I do the schedule, conflicts always happen no matter what. This year there’s a little less flexibility with individual student schedules, but we were still able to offer every single class that would have run in a normal non-Covid year,” Mrs. Pilkerton said.