When Governor Charlie Baker announced in response to the growing COVID-19 crisis a three week suspension of school operations at all public and private elementary and secondary (K-12) schools in the Commonwealth, plans were already well in place to implement a remote teaching and learning plan at Austin Prep.
In the week before the statewide order, staff from the Austin Prep Department of Technology set up over 70 brand new Apple MacBook Air computers, configured with all the tools needed to teach remotely in case of a school-wide shut down. At the same time that Gov. Baker made his announcement on Sunday, March 15th, Austin Prep Faculty were participating in web tutorials led by the Austin Prep Office of Academic Affairs using the videoconferencing app Zoom Cloud Meetings.
From there, taking advantage of an already scheduled professional development day on Monday, March 16th, the laptop computers were deployed to faculty members on campus, and final plans were made for remote teaching and learning to commence on Wednesday, March 18th. Students were instructed to download the free Zoom Cloud Meetings App on their school issued iPads, and then received Google Calendar invitations from their advisors and teachers with individual links to enter virtual classrooms with their teachers and classmates.
“I am extremely proud of and thankful for our faculty who are demonstrating ‘continuing education’ in action,” Head of Middle School Michael McLaughlin said. “Over the past couple of days, they have been learning how to navigate this videoconferencing technology in real time in order to be able to educate our students through frequent interaction and support.”
During this period of remote teaching and learning, Austin Prep is following a modified schedule of its Advisory Program and rotating academic block schedule. Classes are 45-minutes in length and allow for teachers to interact with their students and discuss concepts, skills, and assessments as well as maintain the connections students and teachers enjoy in class. There are four classes a day and advisory meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“Our family would like to thank the entire Austin Prep faculty and staff for having the forethought, motivation and ability to get a distance learning program up and running for our students during the coronavirus outbreak,” Karen Brabeck P’25 said. “Not only is it important to continue learning during this time, but it provides a sense of stability and ongoing community for our students who can remain connected with teachers, classmates and friends.”
Austin Prep Faculty have echoed that sentiment. “I am really grateful for the technology that we have at Austin Prep that allows me to be present in the lives of my students during this very challenging time,” English Department Chair Nicole Putney P’26 said.
Despite the interruption to the traditional, in-person teaching schedule, the academic year is continuing as planned, with the third quarter ending Friday, March 27th and the fourth quarter beginning the following Monday, March 30th.
“This is a challenging time and the strengths of Austin Prep will sustain us through uncertainty: our commitment to veritas, unitas, and caritas, our sense of community, small class size, and, of course, our faith,” Headmaster Dr. James Hickey P’22, ’23, ’24 said.