Central Alberta Christian High School’s (CACHS) transition to digital learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been smooth but not seamless according to Principal Pete Hoekstra.
“We got the announcement on March 15 that school were going to be closed and by the 18th we had every course we teach here except for shop online,” he said. “Instruction was proceeding already within three days.
“We are a month in and it has been going very well.”
The majority of course work for students at CACHS has been over Google Classroom, with live instruction happening over Google Meet
“We have used a number of apps such as Loom to create stored videos. Ninety-five per cent of what we are using is Google Classroom and it has performed excellent for us,” he said.
Hoekstra commended his staff for a prompt and enthusiastic response to the required changes.
“We have made some adaptations as we go, but overall we have communicated to our students that they need to be available between the hours of 9 a.m and 1 p.m. on regular school days for live instruction through Google Meet,” he said.
“Our staff have created modified assessments that are realistic to the platform but nonetheless set benchmarks and guidelines for what our expectations are.”
For students, the overall response to the change has been positive and they have worked with students who have faced more unique challenges.
“I think the main problem with this delivery platform in the inability for them to actually be present with each other. That is definitely a factor — the socialization element of school is important and they miss that a lot,” he said.
In rare case, CACHS has worked with students who may have technical issues accessing digital learning at home.
“Whether they need an actual machine like a Chromebook or a laptop — we have provided that by loaning them. We have also found channels where they can hook up the Internet and we have 100 per cent success on that,” he said.
Hoekstra said that with the changes, his staff would be prepared to go into 2020-2021 digitally if necessary.
“For me, that would be the worst-case scenario. I am hoping that is absolutely not going to happen,” he said.
He added, “Big changes and big pressure require people to step up and I have seen that across the board from our parents, students, staff board and everyone else. They have risen to the occasion and it is very heartening to be part of a learning community that is able to do that.”