Kodiak’s private schools work to maintain normalcy through distance learning

After nearly two months of distance learning, Kodiak educators say teachers have “found their groove” in their efforts to continue classes virtually. Teri Schneider, principal at St. Mary’s Catholic School said it’s required flexibility and constant communication.

“Flexibility has been the name of the game,” she said. “When something works, you go with it and figure out how to use more of it. And if it’s not working, then you regroup and rework. Our teachers have stepped up to the plate to do [it] and are dedicated and making it work for their kids.”

St. Mary’s has 61 students across preschool and kindergarten up through eighth grade.

Schneider said since Kodiak is a rural school district, some of the teaching methods were familiar.

“Distance delivery is not is not new to all of us. I started teaching Alutiiq language by distance when video teleconferencing was first started. And our rural kids around the island have been fabulous students in that regard and teachers just have to figure it out and make it work.”

According to their principals, students at St. Mary’s and at Kodiak Christian School were already using an online platform called Google Classroom to share assignments and turn in work.

Kat Baquero, principal at Kodiak Christian School, said younger children weren’t as used to a virtual learning format. She said teachers have worked to provide recorded lessons along with hands-on activities to keep them engaged.

“Families can help the kids log on, view the lesson and then do whatever assessment goes with that, whether it be a worksheet or an activity. Some of the teachers have dropped off supplies like chalk and coloring paper. And that way [kids] can continue to work and not [have it] be such a tedious task.”

Both school principals said that the loss of fundraising, due in part to the pandemic’s hit to local donors, has been difficult. Baquero says while they were able to receive assistance through the federal Small Business Administration, there is still a lot of uncertainty during this time. She says she hopes the community will pull together as restrictions begin to ease up.

St. Mary’s, which is associated with the Catholic Church through the Archdiocese of Anchorage, is looking toward state and federal aid through the church, but Schneider expects it will take some time for that money to show up.

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