By Sharon Aron Baron
The first day of school looked quite different for students at Calvary Christian Academy, a private pre-K–12th-grade Christian school in Fort Lauderdale attended by 268 students from Coral Springs.
Upon their return to the new school year, face coverings and temperature checks weren’t the only measures the school took. There were also social distancing requirements and plastic partitions for desks.
Some students bypassed these new protocols altogether by participating in the school’s new mobile learning program, which allows them to tune into their classes in real-time through the high-definition cameras that were recently installed in each classroom.
Head of School, Dr. Jason Rachels said that after hundreds of hours of research, planning, and deliberation with federal, regional, and local professional institutions over the summer. They concluded that it was in students’ best interest to physically return back to school while still providing virtual learning opportunities of the highest quality for families who are not ready to return back to campus.
“We ultimately wanted to give parents the opportunity to choose the delivery method that works best for their situation and comfort level,” said Rachels.
When developing the reopening plans for each division — early childhood, elementary, and secondary (middle and high school) — CCA’s administration was in close communication with entities such as the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, Florida Department of Education, Association of Christian Schools International, and Broward County Childcare Licensing. These institutions emphasized the importance of schools reopening this fall and how in-person learning plays an essential role in children’s overall well-being.
“CCA stands in agreement with these professional institutions and acknowledges that in-person learning not only gives students the opportunity to thrive academically, but mentally, socially, and spiritually as well,” said Rachels. “Our holistic educational approach ultimately prepares students to grow into confident Christian leaders and world changers.”
The school designed a plan that includes multiple layers of safeguards for on-campus learning such as face-covering requirements for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, heightened cleaning and sanitizing procedures, daily temperature checks and screening questionnaires, new hand washing and sanitizing stations, and signage around campus promoting proper hygiene and social distancing. The school also has two full-time licensed nurses who have been properly trained to treat students who may become symptomatic during the school day.
“Enrolling my son was the best decision I made for him educationally and for my peace during this pandemic,” said CCA parent Elpidia Frederick.
In an effort to foster greater social distancing among middle and high school students who have to rotate classes throughout the day, they are now attending classes under a new hybrid schedule that splits the secondary student population in half and incorporates both on-campus and mobile learning on alternating days. CCA has also established supervised Onsite Mobile Learning Locations (OMLLs) on campus for secondary parents in need of childcare arrangements on their child’s assigned mobile learning days.
To make mobile learning possible, CCA invested in high-definition cameras and monitors in each classroom that stream through Google Classroom. Every CCA family from pre-K through 12th grade had the opportunity to commit to full-time mobile learning from home or another offsite location until they are ready to return back to campus. One-quarter of the school’s secondary students participate in this service, along with 30 percent of pre-K through fifth-grade students. Full-time mobile learning also gives students who live outside of South Florida the opportunity to enroll in the school.
The mobile learning program provides an authentic virtual learning experience for students who are not on campus by giving them the ability to engage with their teachers and peers in real-time.
Said Rachels, “Although we’d love for all of our students to be physically at school, we understand the current challenges and believe this mobile learning offering is the next best thing to the live experience. In every circumstance and setting, our faculty and staff are wholeheartedly devoted to seeing their students succeed.”
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