Back-to-School night takes a technological turn

Staff and faculty members create a website for parents in place of the tradition in-person Back-to-School Night

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Daisy Calderon/Talon

Oak Park High School parent explores the Back-to-School Night website.

Unable to host Back-to-School Night on campus this year, faculty and staff members worked to create custom videos of their classes that introduced parents to the course and its expectations. These videos were linked to a master document and made accessible to parents and students.

On August 27, Principal Kevin Buchanan announced through ParentSquare that “all the links and videos are live now … [and the videos will be kept] up over the weekend so you can watch them on your schedule.” 

Most teachers introduced their class curriculums, some shared some fun facts and others took a more creative approach, like AP U.S. history teacher Victor Anderson, who featured his safari and deepsea diving adventures, following the format of a James Bond movie trailer. 

Teachers were given a 10 minute time limit, and like many people who participate in virtual meetings or events, teachers too found this system strange and nerve wrecking. 

“I’ll never get used to addressing the “green dot” at the top of my computer. Mentally constructing a classroom full of bustling students or eager parents within that half inch of real estate requires a feat of imagination! I felt awkward representing myself to a camera, but no more awkward than I do whenever I pre record a video for my classes. Normalizing this mode of communication and excusing its inevitable messiness is a crucial step for teachers, students, and parents alike right now,” English teacher Jessica Wall said. 

Prior to the staff video, however, the event officially “begins” with the homepage of the website, which links to various other tabs, among them the introduction video. Buchanan begins by welcoming parents to the site and is followed by senior Sarah Ghazanfari singing the national anthem. Shortly after, the video cuts back to Buchanan.

“Welcome … to our Back-to-School Night. It’s a different experience doing it this way. Normally we would all be in the gym before being sent off to visit your students’ classrooms with a map and your students’ schedule in hand. However, obviously that’s not possible so we have created a website for you … where we put all the videos and you can tour around and look at … how your teachers have prepared for the year and a few other resources that I’ve put in for you,” Buchanan said. 

Buchanan goes on to tour the website, showing the document with the teacher videos, introducing the administrative team and the new counselors, and asking parents to watch the Oak Park Education Foundation and PFA videos. He ends the video with a brief message to the viewers.

“It’s been a real pleasure … speaking with you. I hope we can see each other in person soon and we can have the kids safely back on campus as soon as possible. Until then, thank you for joining us and have a wonderful evening,” Buchanan said. 

Many were grateful for the hard work and efforts made by the district and administration to keep everyone safe and yet still host traditionally in-person events. 

I miss making the parent-student connections!” Wall said. “I’m continually impressed by the administration’s efforts to maintain community and communication through distance learning. I can’t wait for more safe Back-to-School-Nights in person in the future … for now, I am grateful for the creative alternative our school provided.

As of now, the website is still up and can be accessed here. 

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