With the opening of the spring term on Thursday, March 26, the Loomis Chaffee community has begun an experiment in online distance learning, necessitated by the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The school decided on March 16 to cancel on-campus classes for the spring term as the outbreak of COVID-19 across the United States grew quickly in the early weeks of March and there were increasing calls by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state of Connecticut for social distancing.
Students were away from campus on March Break when the decision was made, but on the advice of the school’s COVID-19 Task Force, they had brought their computers and books home when they headed out for the break. At the time, the task force warned of a possible delayed or online start to the spring term. March Break student trips to Italy and the Galapagos Islands and athletics team trips to California and Florida were canceled.
The task force continued to meet several times a week during the break, and with the pandemic and related public health crisis intensifying, the school decided to shift to a full-term distance learning plan.
Teaching faculty revised their lesson plans during the break to adapt to distance teaching and learning, including both real-time class meetings via live video and less synchronous approaches. They tested online meeting platforms and considered ways to support students from afar. An academic program subcommittee of the COVID-19 Task Force designed an online class schedule for the spring term, taking into consideration that students would connect to the school from many time zones.
The Information Technology Department worked to enhance virtual connections among teachers, students, administrative faculty, and staff so that as many people as possible could access the school’s computer networks from their homes. IT staff also provided training for teachers to use the Zoom online meeting platform for virtual face-to-face classes.
The Communications Office worked with the head of school and other administrators to keep the community informed of the school’s response to the crisis and published a COVID-19 Response webpage that will continue to be updated, with information regarding Loomis’ response to the pandemic and the school’s distance learning plans.
Advisors connected with their advisees on Wednesday, March 25, to help students prepare for the first day of classes. And the first day of classes began at 8:30 a.m. EDT on Thursday. Even as classes get under way, several committees are working to maintain Loomis Chaffee’s thriving community life and support students, faculty, and staff as they navigate life away from the Island.
In recent emails to the community, Head of School Sheila Culbert noted that the school’s motto, ne cede malis (do not give in to misfortune), will stand us all in good stead as we pull together as a community, support each other, and work to continue students’ educational experience and protect and serve the common good through this crisis.
Connect to Loomis Chaffee’s COVID-19 Response webpage at www.loomischaffee.org/coronavirus for detailed information.