Education is facing some unique challenges over the next few weeks. Thousands of schools across the United States have been closed for anywhere from 2-6 weeks due to precautions regarding the coronavirus. Colleges are sending their students home and switching to a distance learning model. Daycares and preschools are also being closed for weeks at a time.
This is something that Christian schools have never really faced before. It’s creating a lot of questions like: “How will I keep my students on track with their learning?” or “Will I have to extend my school year into the summer?”
Times like these require creativity and out-of-the-box thinking so that we can provide positive solutions to difficult situations. This article will focus on a collection of suggestions for implementation into your program. Global Christian Educators Association wants to be a resource for schools and home educators at this time. Our seasoned Christian education experts are ready and available to be that resource.
The School Year
Many schools are wondering how school closures are going to affect their school year calendar. They are wondering if they will need to make up those days and extend the school year deep into June or even into July.
We highly suggest that you visit your state’s department of education to discover what is expected in your state. Most states have declared a state of emergency and many are waiving the annual school-day requirements for days lost due to this crisis situation. Be aware of what waivers the commissioner or secretary of education in your state has issued.
Not Losing Time
If this is the case and lost days don’t need to be made up, it creates anther big problem for students. Some public school systems are equipped with the ability to incorporate some online learning, but many are not. They simply lose WEEKS of their education this year. For most Christian educators this is just not acceptable. Christian schools can mitigate this by switching to home-based learning. Essentially, become a homeschool academy. It’s different, but it’s not as difficult as you might think.
If your school uses an individualized and self-instructional curriculum such as Accelerated Christian Education’s PACEs or Alpha Omega’s LifePacs or Ignitia you are uniquely equipped for just such a contingency. With just a few adjustments you can adapt to a distance-based learning program for the short-term or however long required. Find something that will work for your school and situation. Here is what one school from Washington state is doing:
1. On Monday please come by the school in the morning or during the day and we will send Pace Work and assignments home with you for your kids.
2. Supervisors will be working every day during school hours (8:30-3:00) to answer any questions or to assist with tutoring via Phone, Text, FaceTime or Skype.
3. We will have students work on only 2 to 3 subjects at a time. When students are finished with those 2 to 3 Pace’s (Up to their self-tests) they can be dropped off at the school and their Supervisors will score their work for them. While Supervisors are scoring those Paces your children can be working on the others. This will keep a smooth rotation going. Paces can be dropped off in the morning or during the day. In Spokane they can be placed in the mail slot during after school hours. We will be there to serve you completely during business hours to keep the kids on track.
4. Self-Tests and Tests will be dealt with individually.
In conclusion… God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind. Because of our great curriculum, and our great staff and parents we should be able to weather this storm. We will get through this together.
And another school in Massachusetts:
We will not be in session at the campus for the next two weeks… This does not mean that we are closing the school. Instead, we will treat this like snow days. Students will work from home.
Those students in Ignitia will have virtual help from the teachers daily. We guarantee this help from at least 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. It is likely that teachers be online and monitoring earlier and after those times, but we are guaranteeing those times. If we find that is not adequate for the students, be assured that we will increase our available times. Students in need of assistance should start by sending a help request through the messaging system. If we find that there is a scenario in which the messaging system is inadequate to assist the students then we will arrange for a Zoom or Facebook messaging meeting with the student for a “face to face” meeting and give the help they need to master the materials.
For students doing PACEs, arrangments will be made to meet at the school for scoring and test-taking. Probably 2 or 3 times per week will be available for this.
Students will need to spend several hours per day (anywhere from 2 to 5 or more hours) working diligently on their lessons to stay current with their assignments. It will be good for your child to have their work over the next two weeks to keep them occupied for several hours per day.
If your school uses a more conventional style of learning with a curriculum such as A-Beka, Bob Jones, or Saxon, etc. you can still tweek your program to meet student needs and keep the learning going. Here are some technologies that your school can take advantage of to help with this:
- Google Classroom – If your school already has Google Education Suites (a free service for non-profits) you have direct access to this free Learning Management System. If not you can sign up for free and get your students enrolled in it. Classroom allows you to create assignments with due-dates, create quizzes or tests (limited question styles available). It allows for class-wide communications and is a very flexible program that may be of benefit to you.
- Zoom and/or Messenger – Video conferencing can take the place of classroom lectures. It’s as simple as scheduling them and meeting together. Zoom has a couple of advantages over Messenger in that it allows for the teacher to have more control over the session and allows for screen-sharing and whiteboarding. It also has an option for recording the session so that it can be made available at a later time for students to review. Zoom is free for up 45 minutes at a time but also comes with a premium version for extended sessions. Video conferencing is a great tool right now in that it allows the teacher to work one-one-one if necessary with their students in areas in which they are struggling so that they do not fall behind.
- Facebook Live – If your students are used to a daily assembly or opening time together you can create a semblance of normalcy by hosting a brief time together with them on Facebook. Spend a few minutes at the start of the day inspiring them to stay diligent even though their surroundings are different. Share a Scripture, give them some encouragement and pray for them. The beauty of Facebook Live is that if they miss it live they can go back and watch it on your Facebook page. It’s best to do this on your organization’s page which is probably public so that everyone can access it.
Be a Part of the Solution!
We are in a unique situation. In a couple of weeks, Lord willing, things will return back to normal. But normal may never be same. If you do develop a homeschool academy you may want to pray about making it available. Could you handle 100, 200 or even 300 new students in such a program? Let God use your school to meet the great need that is developing in our world. Be a part of the solution!