The Maritimes’ private schools embrace virtual learning during COVID-19

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WATCH: Many private schools across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have been offering virtual classroom learning for several weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. – Apr 8, 2020

As students across Canada begin dealing with the new realities of the novel coronavirus pandemic, many are starting to learn from home in virtual classrooms.

For private schools in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, virtual learning has been underway for many weeks.

READ MORE: NSTU prepare for distance learning plan

It was a strategy that was first discussed when coronavirus began spreading rapidly around the globe.

“We had some inkling maybe at the end of February, that this was a possibility,” said Steven Laffoley, the headmaster of Halifax Grammar School in Halifax.

“So, it was just sort of first hints but then on March 15, the province effectively closed all schools.”

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Administrative staff at Halifax Grammar School began discussing possible virtual learning strategies back in February when the spread of COVID-19 began showing no signs of slowing down. Alexa MacLean/Global Halifax

Discussions around virtual learning strategies were also taking place in New Brunswick private schools like Rothesay Netherwood.

There are 300 students enrolled at the school, ranging from middle school to high school levels.

READ MORE: International students rushing to get home in wake of border closures, COVID-19

Rothesay Netherwood also has international students who have since travelled home.

That has led to a unique challenge of having a virtual classroom with students across a wide range of time zones.

“We have 16 hours of timezones to deal with. So, we have kids in British Columbia and we have kids in Japan. So, 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will sound like an odd time but that means that kids in British Columbia would start at 6 a.m. and kids in Japan would start at 10 p.m.,” Paul McLellan said, the headmaster of Rothesay Netherwood.

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Click to play video: 'E-learning begins for Ontario students as schools remain closed amid coronavirus outbreak' E-learning begins for Ontario students as schools remain closed amid coronavirus outbreak
E-learning begins for Ontario students as schools remain closed amid coronavirus outbreak – Apr 6, 2020

McLellan says the school is currently trying to strike a balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning.

“We’re hoping to have four, 30-minute classes each day. From 10 a.m. till 12:30 p.m., will be the synchronous portion of their day and then 1:30 to 3:30, will be the asynchronous part of the day and the first hour of that their teachers will be available,” McLellan said.

READ MORE: Students across N.S. have ‘mixed emotions’ over COVID-19 trip cancellations

Some of the virtual curriculum has been so popular, Sussex Christian School is offering its learning strategy to families at a reduced rate.

“As people waited for what the New Brunswick department of education would do, we have made that offer,” said Marsha Boyd Mitchell, the principal of Sussex Christian School.

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“We certainly couldn’t take all the students in New Brunswick, or our community but for a few people that would really like the students to still be in a curriculum-focused environment, we are accepting a few new students,” she said.

Although the intricacies of the virtual classrooms may differ from school to school, the overall goal is similar.

“The teachers all remarked how happy the students were to see each other. It was a comfort for the students to have some kind of familiarity,” Boyd Mitchell said.

READ MORE: Online learning begins for students across Ontario as COVID-19 closures continue

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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