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Staying connected

BG students, teachers transition to online learning

Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School junior Branden Wasser, like all students across Pennsylvania, hasn’t stepped foot in a classroom in more than two weeks.

With the order to keep all schools closed until at least April 6 as the coronavirus continues to spread across the state, schools are seeking alternative ways to keep students engaged during this unprecedented shutdown.

For Branden and his classmates, being away from school is not keeping them from class, as BG has gone to remote learning so its students can continue their studies.

BG Principal Joan Donnelly said the online classes are a transition from the school’s already existing virtual days, where students did their lessons from home during a snow day or previously scheduled day of remote learning.

“We already were doing virtual days so we already had in place one-to-one devices. All the students have home connectivity and we use a canvas program for our learning management so it affords the students and teachers to do online classes,” she said. “The transition to go full online was smooth because there was that baseline that was already on there.”

Donnelly said it took innovation and creativity on the part of teachers to go to a full online schedule. Assignments are posted and students join in with their teachers on discussion boards. Students do presentations and video conferencing with their teachers, as well as individual tutoring.

“There is a lot of capability,” Donnelly said.

Bishop Guilfoyle President Joe Adams said the school has had the technology for online classes for a few years to complement the in-class learning, and with physical classes suspended, everything was in place for remote learning.

“We have had a strategy for years to put in place the technology so that students can learn online or in class, so the move to online was relatively seamless,” he said.

Vice Principal Mike Cacciotti said attendance is tracked by the students as they log on. Cacciotti said online attendance is at 98 percent, although some absences can be attributed to students logging on late.

For Branden, a typical day of online learning is waking up at 7:30 a.m. and signing on to his device by 7:53.

“I check my schedule for my classes because some of them we have to be there at the actual class time,” Branden said. “Then I plan out what needs to be done that day and for a few days.”

Branden said he tries to pace himself through his classes and is usually done by 4 p.m.

“On Friday, we have study day, so we don’t have any assignments, but that’s usually when I catch up on the long-term assignments or study for my AP classes,” he said.

Branden said it is getting easier to get motivated for his online classes, but admitted at first it was a struggle.

“It’s a lot easier to procrastinate since you are at home, but I’m getting used to it over time, making sure I’m not on my phone and eliminating all distractions,” he said.

Donnelly said there is a learning curve associated with going to full online classes, but the students are equipped to handle it.

“Part of the experience at BG is that they are independent learners,” she said.

Adams said BG stresses responsibility in its students and trusts they are taking full advantage of online learning.

“Part of Bishop Guilfoyle’s objective is to train the students to be responsible for their own learning,” he said. “That’s true normally. We create an expectation where students get the work done, they take responsibility and it’s not because the teacher told them to. With that being part of the culture, it was a simple transition for the students to know they need to wake up, log on, report attendance and do their assignments. The environment is set up for the students to be able to work independently with the support of the teachers and the technology.”

Mirror Staff Writer Rick Boston is at 946-7535.

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