March break rolled into April for most students in the province, but it was back to school – of sorts – for those enrolled at Foundation Christian School in Winterbourne.
Having last week sent out a large bundle of material to each of its 100 students, the school went live Monday with an online version of the classrooms the kids are currently barred from attending.
The materials put together by teachers over the March break contain lessons and assignment based on the curriculum the students have been following all year. As of Monday, there are video sessions, with teachers available in the afternoon to work with their students via video and other online tools, or simply by telephone.
The plan is to start slowly with core math and language classes, with the potential to add more once everyone gets into the rhythm of this ‘new normal’. Students will connect with their teachers each day through online video and chats, e-mails and even phone calls, and then have the support of their parents at home to complete the necessary work, explained headmaster Matthew Robinson.
As with the students, the teachers are working remotely from home.
“It seems to be going quite well – everyone is engaged,” he said Tuesday. “We’re feeling quite blessed.
“We’ve managed to get it all off the ground for our school,” he added of employing technology as an alternative … “though it’s not really how we want to do school.”
The independent Christian school is using technology to stay in touch with all its students, from JK to Grade 8.
“This is new for all of us, so there will be a big learning curve, but we feel that in a time like this, continued structured learning will be a tremendous benefit to children.”
Though not the same as being in class, and requiring more input from parents who would usually be sending their kids off to school, the alternative put together does help the students stay in learning mode, said Robinson.
With the system in place, there will be lessons, feedback from the teachers and even marks, as with the normal routine.
“We’re using online tools to connect as staff, and also with families,” he said. “Our highest priority is keeping everybody connected.”
For Christine Dixon of St. Jacobs, who has three of her children placed at FCS, the launch this week of the online system is a welcome move.
“I’m feeling happy as a parent that we’re able to be offering something,” she said of the school lessons. “Already, I can see some real steps forward with independent learning.”
Her children at FCS are in grades 2, 4 and 7, and the online tools even allow for a little bit of the social aspect of being in school, though her kids would rather be there in person, she added.
Still, it’s an improvement over the situation of her two children in public high school, where classrooms are empty and students remain idle at this point.
“It’s new for all of us, but we’re dealing with it.”
Robinson said the school plans to stay with the current learning measures for as long as the coronavirus-related shutdowns remain in place.
“We’re going to keep going until we can get back into our building … for the remainder of the school year, if necessary.”
For now, the tools are being used to approximate the pattern of the school year. With video chats, for instance, students can participate at the same time, interacting in small groups to work on projects together or as study groups.
The plan is to have mandatory times when everyone will be online together, to approximate some of the social aspects of attending school.
Finding online ways to have whole classes connect to keep social connections intact, and celebrating weekly worship together as a whole school, albeit remotely, are all part of the plan, said Robinson.
“Every home situation is different, and we will do what we can to be flexible and supportive,” he said. “We have an amazing school community. This won’t be easy for our staff, students and families, but together we can offer mutual support, and move through this season with the Lord.”