KALONA — Students at Hillcrest Academy have already been back to school for a week thanks to online classes.
Formerly known as Iowa Mennonite School, Principal Dwight Gingrich said all 63 students in grades 9-12 are learning virtually through ZOOM, a web application that utilizes a webcam to encourage virtual meetings.
Students are in class four days a week with Wednesday acting as a prep day for teachers and an extra day for students to complete their work, he said. Usually, students meet for eight periods a day on Monday, Tuesday and Friday. On Wednesdays, periods one, three, five and seven meet and on Thursdays, periods two, four, six and eight meet.
For the new virtual learning scenario, Gingrich said on Mondays and Thursdays students are meeting for periods one, three, five and seven. On Tuesdays and Fridays, they meet for periods two, four, six and eight.
“Those classes meet via zoom during those scheduled times. We don’t meet as long during the day as we normally would,” he said.
The process began on March 25, days after the Department of Education announced all non-public schools could require online learning if it chose. On the first day, teachers met for all eight class periods and the modified schedule they are now operating on began on the 26th, he said.
So far the staff have reported it is working out well and they are able to accomplish teaching to the best of their ability. Gingrich said being able to meet online has also assisted in being able to have online chapel as a school, an asset he calls “a big blessing.”
Overall, Gingrich said he expects the school to continue using distance learning until it is deemed safe for students to be back in the building. Until then, staff and administration will monitor the progress and keep a look out to ensure students have everything they need to learn while at home.
“We’ve worked hard to make sure everybody has a device and access to the internet. We are trying to meet the needs of all of our students though this process. That allows us to move forward,” he said.