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Serra Prepared for Challenges in Distance Learning
Serra Prepared for Challenges in Distance Learning

While the Coronavirus pandemic has forced tens of thousands of schools into extended closures, Serra High School is readily adapting to the challenges that distance learning provides.

"This situation is unbelievably difficult for everyone, but we believe that the work of our teachers, students and community over the past years has positioned Serra to respond effectively," Serra President Barry Thornton said.

Serra's Dean of Studies Rita Lee helped lead a process that began over seven years ago, bringing in a top-notch education and technology consultant to integrate technology into teaching and learning. Serra implemented a one-to-one 'Bring Your Own Device' model that required every student to bring his own device to school and learn to proficiently navigate online learning tools.

"Our teachers have worked incredibly hard to integrate technology effectively; our students have been engaging technology throughout this period and they all have their own devices from day one," Lee said. "From the beginning, it was not about the device or the technology, but about student learning and outcomes, and how technology would support our achievement toward those goals." she said.

The thrust into a technology-based learning environment aided the school in developing schedules for the boys once the global health crisis forced school closures. The model reflects the need for accountability, connection and learning even though we are not physically in the classroom.

"This affirms and articulates the work of the community for the past number of years," said Principal Charlie McGrath. "There has been an abrupt interruption in our learning environment and lifestyle - but the learning is continuing."

After two weeks in distance learning, Serra gathered feedback from parents, students and teachers - and then settled on a modified block schedule that has boys checking into their first periods of instruction by 7:55 a.m., the normal school start time, and working through the noon hour with office hours continuing in the afternoon. Students receive Zoom classroom instruction, assignment review, general questions and plans for the work week. Exercise breaks and an activity period are woven in the class day as well. Daily reflection and prayer are updated daily on the Serra website for students as well, with regular video check-ins from campus leaders.

There is no word on when classes might resume at Serra, but the learning will continue as intended, Thornton insists.

"We are committed to ensure that our students will be ready for the next level in high school or college," he said. "We are committed to moving forward now, in the next few months, and in the next year as we anticipate ongoing challenges in the health crisis."