There are distinct benefits to being a small middle school on an island when a global pandemic hits. The most important is that we can adapt, innovate and change quickly.
In March, when schools closed their doors and went online, Island Pacific School’s students were in ‘class’ within two days. Through Google Meet and Google Classroom, students had face to face interactions with teachers, their classmates and, in the beginning, an introduction to everyone’s pets!
Throughout the spring, we adapted the schedule to allow for more movement breaks and personal projects, decided on and reported on, by each student. At IPS, the month of June is usually full of celebrations and excursions. We were able to adapt our grade 9 Masterworks presentations to be live streamed and give the students the audience they deserved, complete with a question period from the viewers. Our school wide, three day kayak and camp trip to Gambier went local with kids sleeping at home but hiking and kayaking from Bowen. Rites of Passage was a different celebration than years past, but a car parade and distanced ceremony made our grads feel special.
What does IPS look like now? Similar, but different. We’ve created two cohorts of about 30 students each. Each grade has their own classroom and subject teachers move to them for classes. In common areas and when cohorts mix, like for Morning Stretch and Announcements, all students are masked. Our grade 6 and 9 students kept the mentoring alive and carved pumpkins together for Halloween.
The reality of course, is that more students are staying home for health reasons. We have enabled them to continue with their academics and they can attend classes virtually if need be. Personally, I have had to teach class virtually with my students at desks and myself projected in front of them. Interesting times! If we do need to return to an online or hybrid model, we – both students and staff – are well equipped to do so.
As the song goes, the “times they are a changin”. Island Pacific School is changing too. We will continue to equip and inspire students to become the very best of what it means to be human.