Schools move to virtual platforms to reach their students during coronavirus outbreak

READING, MASS. (WHDH) - Schools across Massachusetts are working to implement virtual learning and trying to adjust to the new normal during the coronavirus outbreak.

At 8 a.m. Friday morning, Austin Preparatory School in Reading started the day off with a prayer service. The thing is, no one was in the pews. Just a priest at the pulpit and his congregation of students, staff and parents tuning in together from home.

“Recognizing that we can’t come together physically we are very fortunate that we have technology that can bring us together in a virtual setting,” Headmaster Dr. James Hickey said.

The private Catholic school is one of many in Massachusetts that have moved to online learning in the wake of the pandemic.

“What is the strength of Austin Prep is our sense of community,” Hickey said. “At the same time, this is also something that is challenging because what has given us that sense of community for so long is coming together in a physical and since we can no longer do that we have to adapt.”

School officials have had to adapt quickly.

“In the span of about 24 to 48 hours we had a remote teaching and learning environment up and running,” Hickey explained.

For the entire school community, this is all about maintaining a sense of normalcy at a time that feels anything but.

7’s John Cuoco, an alumnus of Austin Prep, had the opportunity to sit in on one of the classes and take in this new learning environment for himself.

“All the work we have done to prepare these classes we can now take into our classes again and improve them further once we get back to Austin and the real world,” Chemistry teacher Ms. Elizabeth Farrell told John and the class.

Of course, in a new frontier like this, there are challenges, but, teachers are also using the online platform to meet with one another and discuss strategies to make learning and teaching this way, easier.

“We are working a lot behind the scene to keep this a very positive experience for our students,” Farrell said.

Along the lines of making this a normal school day, Austin Prep said they are looking to expand the virtual learning sphere to include things like school clubs.

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