By Faith Hoyt, with contributions from Adventist educators in the Pacific Union
Though the restrictions due to coronavirus have lasted longer than many anticipated, Adventist schools in the Pacific Southwest have adapted in order to continue providing quality education. Schools have prepared for a mix of both on-campus classes and virtual learning this school year and are addressing the needs of students for either option.
In Northern California, Rio Lindo Adventist Academy pivoted their recruitment procedures for new students. When faced with travel limitations and access to campus, Rio launched a “Virtual Visitation” section on their website to welcome prospective families and give a taste of campus life. The Virtual Visit includes a school tour video and a chance to schedule a live information session with the enrollment team. At the time this article was written, Rio planned on opening with in-person instruction, but they are ready to do distance learning if needed in light of COVID restrictions for schools.
“This moment in time is one of the most challenging seasons for many of our Adventist schools,” says Rika Meyer, vice principal for marketing, enrollment, and development. “We have to be innovative and adaptable in the face of adversity, but this is also the time that we can find opportunities that we didn’t even know were there.”
In Southeastern California, the local conference office of education equipped schools with a Swivl robot system that uses a tablet as a video camera. The Swivl robot senses an infrared marker that the teacher wears on a lanyard, and the robot “swivels” to follow the marker wherever it moves in the classroom. Additionally, microphones for the instructor and throughout the classroom ensure that every student is heard. The Swivl system will allow teachers to interact simultaneously with both in-class and off-campus students. Additionally, Swivl posts recorded lessons to an on-demand online database where students can review them later.
One of the schools to receive the Swivl robot system is La Sierra Academy. “We believe we can provide synchronous learning for our students who choose to remain home but still have an Adventist Christian education,” shared Elizabeth Muñoz Beard, head principal of the academy.
At Loma Linda Academy, a summer of preparation for the school year has enabled the academy to offer students a hi-flex option.
“This will allow each family to choose either on-campus instruction or Loma Linda Academy designed, live full-day, distance education,” writes Doug Herrmann, LLA headmaster, on the school website. “We are pursuing all possible angles to make this a reality.”
The back-to-school page on the LLA website covers guidelines for campus access, physical distancing, hygiene procedures, and distance learning in the event of another stay-at-home order.
Adventist schools in Nevada and Utah have created reopening plans that follow local, state, and federal recommendations for in-person instruction, while also accommodating the option for remote instruction.
“The Nevada-Utah Conference has equipped most of the schools with the technology to broadcast classes live,” shared Fernando Lista, superintendent of education for the NUC.
School reopening plans for NUC schools address the guidelines for such safety aspects as physical distancing, mask wearing, health screenings, and meals eaten on campus.
In Hawaii, schools opened for on-campus instruction on Monday, Aug. 3. In preparation for their opening, teachers at the Ka Lama Iki campus of Hawaiian Mission Academy filmed a back-to-school video demonstrating their new drop-off and pick-up procedure for parents, as well as showing the safety precautions in place so that students can maintain social distance while participating in on-campus learning.
“We’re ready,” said Sarah Traczyk, principal of Ka Lama Iki. “We’ve been prepping, and we are going to keep students safe.”