Local private schools adapt to online learning

Lizzie Himmelfarb

Schools across the globe are facing the same problem: measuring the costs and benefits of returning in person. Recently, DCPS has decided most students will continue distance learning for the time being, but some private schools in DC have adopted different methods, including hybrid models and alternative learning platforms. 

Alexandra Wingo is a freshman at St. John’s College High School in Northwest DC. Her schedule is set to change soon, as on Thursday, December 10th, the school plans on adopting a hybrid system of in-person and online learning. However, at the moment, she takes eight classes for 40 minutes every day from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and follows an asynchronous-synchronous day routine. 

Similarly to Wilson, Wingo gets Wednesdays off. St. John’s uses three platforms: Canvas for submitting work, Zoom for class calls, and an app called Notability for note taking. 

To stay connected, St. John’s hosts retreats where the students can meet on campus and (safely) communicate and build relationships. Additionally, some extracurriculars are meeting in person, including sports, but there are still safety procedures in place. There are only a limited number of people who are permitted to attend, and they are expected to wipe down equipment after they use it. 

In spite of the opportunities for in-person extracurricular activities, online learning remains a challenge. 

“Learning the content and remembering it long-term versus just doing the work for a grade [is a difficult task to master],” Wingo said. Nevertheless, she concluded because of online learning she is “gaining organization skills [which] has not always been one of my strong suits. I have to set times every day to do certain things, I almost have a routine for doing school work, which I did not have before.” Despite the obstacle of learning online, Wingo feels her experience at St. John’s so far has been positive. 

Eli Alpuche just began his first year at Maret, a private school for kids from K-12. His schedule differs from Wilson’s schedule, in that almost every day is different. On Monday mornings, the school hosts virtual assemblies and classes follow. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, class starts at 9 a.m. and could end at a different time each day, depending on students’ personal schedules. 

Unlike Wilson, he does not get any day of the week off. Maret has adopted Powerschool for submitting work, Zoom for class meetings, and Veracross for posting grades. Like Wilson, students must keep their cameras on during class to track engagement. Maret has provided its students with textbooks and materials for students taking the arts.

Alpuche has encountered difficulties with starting the school year online. “It gets boring,” he declared overtly via Zoom, “It’s the same thing over and over again. It takes a toll.” 

Ellie Kessler attends Georgetown Day School (GDS), a private school which happens to be a mere half mile from Wilson. She follows an even-odd schedule for her eight hour-long classes, alternating the schedule of her classes every other day. GDS has Wednesdays almost completely off, but includes an advisory period, where students check in with their advisor in small groups. School begins at 8:45 a.m. and concludes at 3:05 p.m. 

GDS students use the platforms myGDS, a proprietary site that is used to collect and assign work, as well as Google Classroom and Zoom. Students also get a free period. “We have this class called Seminar and you only have to have [Seminar] once a week, so the [other slot for it is a free period],” Kessler said. 

Sports have yet to practice in person, but Kessler, a member of the school’s cross country team, is still instructed to run on her own. 

Overall, schools have adapted to the pandemic in different ways, all focusing on providing the best learning experience for their students.