P.E.I. private schools make quick switch to online learning

·4 min read
'We've move to distanced learning,' says Kenny MacDougall, head of school at the Mount Academy. (Laura Meader/CBC  - image credit)
'We've move to distanced learning,' says Kenny MacDougall, head of school at the Mount Academy. (Laura Meader/CBC - image credit)

While many P.E.I. students are enjoying some extra days off during the three-day period of heightened public health restrictions, a couple of private schools decided to offer online learning.

Teachers at the Mount Academy were sending Google Meet invites to students in time for them to be part of an online class Monday.

"We had the ability to do it so why not?" said Kenny MacDougall, head of school at the Mount Academy.

He said because athletes with the school often travelled in pre-pandemic times, the school is set up to switch back and forth between online and in-person learning.

The Mount Academy is a small school with 105 students, which he said also helps in making the switch.

MacDougall says the three-day closure is 'a small blip in the road.'
MacDougall says the three-day closure is 'a small blip in the road.'(Laura Meader/CBC )

MacDougall said it's not just about the education but also touching base with students, and looking after their mental health.

"Have an opportunity to see their face, check in, give them a bit of school work, see how they're doing," he said.

MacDougall, who also worked in P.E.I.'s public school system for more than 20 years, said he understands how it would be difficult for the much larger system to do what they did.

"I think it's a massive undertaking, so I certainly understand the difficulty they would have pulling that off," he said.

Wanted to offer school work

Grace Christian School's online plan was to provide some math and reading activities for elementary students and some more traditional ongoing assignments for older students.

"We haven't introduced a full online platform learning like we did last March," said Jason Biech, principal and head of school for Grace Christian School.

Both private schools say online learning is not ideal, but it's nice to able to have it as an option when public health rules don't allow staff or students to be in school.
Both private schools say online learning is not ideal, but it's nice to able to have it as an option when public health rules don't allow staff or students to be in school. (Marlee McKinnon)

Biech said the school wanted to offer some basic work for students.

He said teachers gave assignments through blogs or other online platforms.

He also pointed out school closures can happen because of weather during winter and said it made sense to offer digital learning.

Thoughts from students

Emily Chong is a Grade 12 student at Grace Christian, and said she was working on some assignments during the school closure.

"I think it's impressive that we're able to do this," Chong said.

She said she prefers going to school but she's getting used to COVID-19 restrictions and closures.

Emily Chong says she's been working on some school presentations during the closure.
Emily Chong says she's been working on some school presentations during the closure.(Laura Meader/CBC )

Marlee McKinnon, also in Grade 12 at the school, said that she loves online school.

"It's given me a chance to catch up on work I might need to catch up on, or get ahead of work as well," McKinnon said.

She said she's been mostly working on English and biology assignments.

Fellow Grade 12 student Anna Paquet said there weren't a lot of new assignments for her so she kept working on ongoing work.

"We haven't been getting a whole lot of new work," she said.

She said she misses school sports and the socializing with her peers.

Marlee McKinnon does her homework with her dog on her lap, something that wouldn't happen at school.
Marlee McKinnon does her homework with her dog on her lap, something that wouldn't happen at school. (Marlee McKinnon)

Chenyu Hsu said the three-day closure was unexpected and although he's happy to have some digital learning, he said he gets distracted working on his computer.

"In-person learning has definitely helped me to pay more attention," said Hsu.

'Not ideal'

Both schools hope in-person learning will be back soon, noting that online is not the preferred way.

"It's not a way to go to school, it's not the ideal way — it's a fill in, it's stop-gap measure," said MacDougall

Biech agrees that digital learning is tough on parents, children and educators.

"We have the ability to do remote learning, we can do that, but that's not what we wish to do. We really want our students and our staff back here."

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