When the St. Mary's Ryken High School campus in Leonardtown, Maryland, was closed March 13 following government restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19, faculty there not only continued to educate students via the Internet, they also implemented a plan to monitor and support students during this uneasy time of pandemic.

The Southern Maryland school sponsored by the Xaverian Brothers created the Knights Watch Team – named after the school mascot – to “make a proactive approach to monitoring student success during the sudden transition to e-learning,” said Joseph Wysokinski, the dean of student life at Ryken who created the program,

“The Knights Watch Team is a group of faculty members offering a wide range of support for students during the e-learning experience,” Wysokinski explained, “The team monitors academic progress, monitors grades, provides academic advising, and offers individual support to students” as they continue their studies via distance learning.

The team, he said, is made up of “remarkable adults who support our student body on a regular basis.”

“We identified staff who have built unique relationships with students and parents and tasked them with key roles within the Knight Watch Team,” Wysokinski said. “The team is tasked with making direct contact by phone and/or email to the students.”

Wysokinski said that Knights Watch Team members offer academic and emotional support to students, suggest time management tools and “identify practical and useful techniques for individual students.”

He offered the following advice for students as they continue their education via distance learning:

  • Establishing a daily routine is critical for secondary students.
  • Find a quiet place at home to work and fully engage into classwork. 
  • Structure the day to complete assignments daily. Once you begin an assignment continue to work to completion. 
  • Begin each morning with an academic plan. 
  • Remember to communicate regularly with each teacher and follow assignments, and if you have any questions reach out to the teacher immediately. 

In addition to assisting students with their academic work, Wysokinski said Knights Watch Team members are in contact with educators and “teachers can submit a daily referral for students at risk, struggling academically, or in need of emotional support. Administrators and counselors closely monitor student learning goals and identify students at risk.”

Knights Watch Team members are each assigned a group of students and contact every student at least once every two weeks. More contact may be required depending on the needs of the student.

“This is a unique and challenging academic experience for all K-through-12 learners,” he said. “I encourage students and parents to reach out to their administrators, teachers, and counselors with any questions or concerns. We are here to support each family individually.”