As COVID-19 approached Honduras, ESMV knew it was only a matter of time before the physical location of the school would have to close for an impending period. Therefore, ESMV wasted no time in transitioning curriculums to an online format and training teachers on how to administer their classes virtually.
There is much debate about whether classes are more effective administered live versus uploaded as a recording. We noticed very quickly one of the biggest and most important differences between these two options, especially amidst a crisis that has forced social distancing – the social aspect of school would now disappear for students. This was a large deciding factor for ESMV in choosing to hold classes as live demonstrations. Students voiced their concerns about not seeing their friends and being upset that they would no longer have a social aspect to their schooling. Thus, ESMV decided that it would hold live class sessions where students would still be able to interact with one another. So far, this has proven to be very effective in maintaining high levels of participation and attendance to classes, following a schedule for every class. During the online sessions, the students have performed well and have been very respectful of their teachers and classmates taking their learning process seriously. We are very proud of them.
There were many paths that ESMV could have followed and programs that we could have used for our online classes. For example, Google Classroom is a popular choice for a quick transition to online learning. However, our teachers are trained to be high-tech, whereas Google Classroom is targeted towards less high-tech users. Other distance learning platforms are also available and of lesser investment for schools, options such as Edmodo and Moodle to name a few, but ESMV decided to use Zoom for a multitude of reasons. First, Zoom allows for easy collaboration for live meetings. One of our teachers stated that “they use the Breakout feature regularly in their live sessions because it allows for the development of leadership in the students and they can easily broadcast messages simultaneously to each group and receive notifications of groups broadcasting to them.” Within the breakout sessions, there are four to five students per group, who each have different questions to answer. This gives them time to collaborate and lead once they join back as an entire group to have panel discussions.
Second, ESMV uses Zoom along with Admin Plus and Plus Portals to track grades, administer tests, and submit assignments, Admin Plus and Plus Portals have been in place in our school for 4 years, long before the transition to Virtual Classes via Zoom. This allows for easy integration of the technology platforms that ESMV students and staff are already accustomed too.
The experience that ESMV is giving to the students is truly invaluable at this point in time. One of the core values that we hold is to create societal transforming leaders, and with using virtual live sessions, we can continue to do this since one of the most important aspects to leadership is communication and collaboration. Students in grades 3rd-5th, receive their core classes from Monday through Friday from 8:30-10:15; students in 6th-12th grades receive their core classes three days per week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and are given Tuesday and Thursday as work days. Classes are 45 minute sessions scheduled from 7:30AM-12:15PM each day. So far, there has been a lot of positive feedback from staff, students and parents about the flow of the virtual classroom. Students who are absent with a valid parent provided excuse are given a link with the live session recording that has a 24-hour expiration period. This allows them the opportunity to never miss out of a class if they have a valid excuse.
Students tots through 2nd grade have been given weekly packets with instructions and interactive links (such as videos and story books) for the continuation of their learning. These students will now be invited to join once a week online live Zoom sessions with their teachers for continued education. Since they are very young, online learning is a bigger challenge, however at ESMV we push limits and are determined to find a way that works for them and their families.
All of our students in our inclusion program, continue to receive support from the Academic Enrichment Center (AEC) through our dynamic staff holding personalized sessions through ZOOM and providing the follow-up and guidance they need to continue with their learning process.
Currently with the pandemic, students around the world from pre-k through college and grad-school are struggling to find a sense of consolation. More than 1.5 billion students have been affected, which is around 87.6% of total enrolled learners across the globe. 184 countries have declared school closures, Honduras being one of them. (UNESCO) These statistics are nothing like the world has ever seen before, and at ESMV we want to ensure that students in our school continue with the teaching and learning process so that they can go about their lives without altering their future course of plans. Not to mention, it is also very important to the parents of our students that they continue to receive their education.
ESMV has also been providing additional services to students, staff and families. Online counseling is available to anyone that feels they need to talk with someone in this very hard time. We understand that this transition will affect everyone differently, thus the need for continuing counseling services was important to our Multi-disciplinary team. In addition, four days a week, we offer Karate lessons Via Zoom and anyone in our school community may join to keep active and healthy. ESMV also holds online Rosary Prayer for anyone in the community that would like to join via Zoom. Since we are a Catholic school, continuing daily and weekly prayer with students was also a big priority. We hold a daily prayer for our students to bring faith and hope during these times and to continue growth through the Catholic Faith – which supports our mission of growing in mind, body and soul.
For ESMV, making excuses is not an option, the teaching and learning process cannot be interrupted for any reason, there is always alternative ways to continue. We believe in the value of our students receiving a XXI century education that prepares them for their collegiate years and life ahead. ESMV students will finish out the school year having met all the standards for the grade level they are enrolled in, because COVID-19 was never a problem for us to continue teaching and learning, it meant an opportunity to move faster to the future in education. We are proud to say that the school’s mission, vision and values are being fulfilled thanks to the hard work, commitment, professionalism, responsibility and passion of the ESMV Team that is made up of: School-Students-Parents. We are filled with gratitude!