BALTIMORE (WJZ) — When the Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore began testing online distance learning in December, few people in the world had heard of the coronavirus.
Now, despite schools closed due to the virus’s worldwide spread, students at the all-girls private high school aren’t missing a beat in their education.
“We actually, ironically, began preparing not for coronavirus but for a big snowstorm in December,” Lisa Wetzel, the assistant head of school for academics, said.
Students last attended classes in-person on March 13, but the learning continues in a virtual classroom. Using various online teaching tools, the school began online distance learning this past week.
“All of our kids have been really responsive, we’ve told them they have to check in for attendance at the beginning of class and they’ve been doing that,” faculty member Caitlin Connor said.
Through a one-to-one program, each student at IND has access to a tablet PC, allowing them to stay connected and attend classes virtually.
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“Our rigor is not going to change; we will be delivering the same lessons that we would deliver in the classroom, now it’s just going to be via video,” Wetzel said.
Thanks to the tools, sophomore Meredith Weitz said she’s not worried about falling behind.
“We started right where we left off, we’re still working on what we were working on,” she said. “We still have our test scheduled so I’m not worried about being behind because I think we’re definitely keeping pace.”
Weitz credits her teachers for helping students prepare for the unexpected pandemic.
“They really made sure we knew how to work the system and they made sure we all had access to it before the whole thing started,” she said.
Wetzel admits there may be some challenges like connectivity and internet issues, but ultimately she said the school will be able to work through them.
“I’m not saying it’s going to be problem-free but I think they’re going to be concerns we can work through,” she said.
A number of virtual learning and conferencing sites like Zoom and Nearpod are offering free trials and lifting restrictions on basic accounts during the pandemic to make their products available to more people.