All four campuses of Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School closed their facilities starting on Tuesday, March 17, in response to Governor Ivey's order for public schools to shut down to slow down the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus that has affected nearly every country in the world. The faculty had been preparing for such an event in the preceding weeks and were ready to start distance learning measures as soon as the Archdiocese of Mobile ordered all its schools to close their doors and start teaching remotely. While it has been a challenging time for both educators and students, the faculty and families at Montgomery Catholic quickly adjusted to life that moved the classroom into their living rooms.
Students enrolled in grades 10 through 12 are given MacBooks as tools for regular classroom instruction, so as long as they have reliable internet connections, they can access most of the learning resources, such as digital textbooks, that they use anyway. For all other grades, teachers had to survey the families to verify that the students would have access to a digital device, be it a home computer, tablet, or smartphone, that could connect to the internet and be able to access course materials.
Using tools like Google Classroom, Zoom meetings, and even simple cell phone photos, teachers have stayed in constant communication with families and students to convey lessons and evaluate schoolwork. And since teachers across the world are also having to teach remotely, libraries of free educational tools and games have been made available online for the public to use. And of course, old-fashioned books and paper have been essential throughout this time.
"Distance learning has been a unique challenge," said sixth grade teacher Mary Pears. "I am trying to supplement my lessons with links to videos, games, and PowerPoints to enhance the at-home learning experience for my students."
Even the youngest students are continuing their curriculum through distance learning. K4 teacher Kathleen Reeves, whose class is comprised of 4- and 5-year olds, has chosen assignments for her students that encourage exploration and literacy in a way that also allows for some creativity.
"I'm trying to keep things as routine as possible with their assignments," said Reeves. "My class will continue doing the things we do regularly, like learning a new letter every week, tracing their names, playing with play dough, and working on their letter journals. They also have access to internet links for the movement songs we do."
The faculty and administration have also met regularly through video conferences. The campus offices, which are diligently practicing social distancing and heightened hygiene routines, have tried to keep business running as close to usual as possible, albeit with doors that are closed to the general public.
While this has been a challenging time for all of the staff and families, they have kept a positive outlook on the school year and look forward to returning to their classrooms.
"I sorely miss the daily interactions with my precious sixth graders!" said Pears. "It is my fervent prayer that I'm back in the classroom with them again soon."