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Susquehanna Township teachers excited to start class thanks to new technology

Panoramic camera set-ups through Microsoft Teams will allow educators in class to communicate with students virtually from home.

Elena Charles' classroom at Susquehanna Township High School is ready. Social distancing signs on the chairs. Clorox wipes and cleaning products on standby, ready for use, and then there's the shiny, new toy standing at attention in the front of the class.

Like an overzealous student excited for the first day of class, each classroom in the Susquehanna Township School District is equipped with a stand with two cameras; one is a panoramic camera, the other is a projector.

It's part of the school district's new technology through Microsoft Teams, which is enabling Susquehanna Township teachers to teach their classes in person, and for those who choose to participate in the district's all-remote access program, and to students at home.

"(Microsoft) Teams gives us the ability to do so much, and combined with the (Hewlett Packard) equipment, it's like we're on steroids," Charles said.

It's safe to say, despite all the uncertainty surrounding school starting with in-person classes in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers at Susquehanna Township are excited to get back.

The district had to delay the start of the school year -- back to Tuesday, September 8 -- because this remote-learning technology was late in arriving. Teachers have spent the past week crash course learning, as if they were the student cramming for a big test. The payoff is only a few days away.

"Our ability to be piped into the kids' learning space, wherever that is, through the cameras at the front of the room, and the ability to share content...is a game changer," said Rob McDonald, head of the science department at the high school. 

McDonald, alongside physiology teacher Meagan Hamshire, and the district's IT department, hardwired multiple schools to handle the learning options for district parents. Some students are using a hybrid model, where they are in school for two days of the week, and home for three. Other students will learn fully online with the all-remote access program. Either way, teachers will be able to see and access their students whether they're in school or at home.

"It’s going to be our shot to really giving the kids continuity of education," said chemistry teacher Dr. Stephen Sexsmith. "If and when we have to close for the students, we can still be in the building and use the technology that’s here. For the students who have already been at home doing all-remote access, they’re not going to notice a thing."

Teachers do expect there to be a COVID-19 outbreak eventually.  

"I think the systems we have in place will make it much smoother and easier for us and the students than it was at the end of last year," said Kerry Snell, a spanish teacher.