The transition to home learning seems effortless for JIS, but a recent talk with Nicholas Biblis, spokesperson for the school, revealed the sheer hard work and preparation behind it.
Was JIS ready for this crisis? In what way were you prepared?
I don’t think anyone was ‘ready’ for this pandemic and the effect it would have on schools, but we were able to see the warning signs early and prepare. Back in January as we learned more about the virus and started to see that the spread would not be contained, we did two things. First, we took early action and prepared a temperature check system for every campus entrance, put into place a health and safety policy to properly care for anyone that registered a fever, scheduled an information session with health experts to educate our parent community on the virus, and carried out extra sanitisation of campus with a focus on high traffic common areas like playgrounds. Second, we started to put together a home/online learning strategy in case it would be necessary. Our Head of School, Dr. Tarek Razik, was very proactive in making sure the school was as prepared as we could be early on. This early action turned out to be very important. Starting to plan for the possibility of home/online learning back in January gave us a head start for when we needed to eventually make the transition; we weren’t caught off guard.
How challenging was it to transfer the whole teaching and learning process to home?
The transfer itself was not too difficult. As the transition to home/online learning seemed more probable, we put together a presentation for parents that explained how home/online learning would work and gave our teachers time to prepare their digital learning environments. We had a plan prepared and it only had to be carried out when the time came.
How are the teachers coping? Do they all work from home?
Our teachers are coping well. There were some growing pains at the start of the transition, which were to be expected, but things are operating smoothly now. They’ve really been doing a great job. On top of having to personally navigate this global pandemic, they continue to show up every day for their students and deliver education and support as best they can. Being a support system for students and keeping the classroom community strong has always been important at JIS, but more so now than ever. Most of our teachers are working from home and following best health and safety guidelines.
Are there different lessons in home teaching or are they just online?
The way lessons are delivered has had to change slightly but the information and learning being done is still the same. Our teachers have been great at adapting to this new way of teaching and leveraging technology to its full use as an educational tool.
Have there been any difficulties for the students?
Just like with teachers, we saw some growing pains with our students getting used to the home/online learning environment. The biggest difficulty for the students is the absence of being on campus. They’re still learning, but they aren’t physically with their friends while they do.
What about exams, we hear that important exams may be delayed/postponed/cancelled?
The two exams that we, and many schools, were waiting to hear about were the IB exam and the AP exam. The IB exam was cancelled and the AP exam was moved to an online format. We’ve been working with our students to prepare them for the online AP Exam.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
The biggest challenge we face is how to properly bring closure to the school year for our faculty, staff, students and families, especially those who won’t be returning. Our senior administrative team meets weekly to discuss ways in which we can still hold end of year celebrations and recognize the achievements of all our students. We’re developing creative ways to reimagine events that would normally take place in person.