Separation Takes Emotional Toll As Campuses Work To Connect

Taylor Hopkin, St. Mark’s School of Texas senior and student council president, introduced his quarantine pastime, showing the camera his drawing of a frog he’d named Froderick.

Over the next thirty minutes, other classmates shared how they spent their time. Ramsey Beard performed a bass solo, Oliver Lambert solved a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded, and Meyer Zinn read a poem.

A month into online education private school students are finding new ways to learn and connect.

With schools shuttering statewide, private school administrators scrambled to form distance learning plans by the end of spring break.

“It’s been a leap of faith for everybody, including our faculty who are really working hard to make this work as we all navigate a complicated situation,” said Lee Hark, head of school for the Greenhill School.

Having enacted remote learning for a week after the October 2019 storm, Ursuline Academy teachers were more comfortable with the transition.

The most challenging aspect has been the lack of face to face contact to ensure students grasp lessons, Ursuline marketing manager Leah Chapman said. “It’s taking an emotional toll on everyone to just not be together.”

“They would be more upset about not getting to thank their teachers than missing prom.” -Leah Chapman

Teachers use tools like Zoom, Google Classrooms, and Microsoft Teams to connect with middle and high school students. Seesaw is used for elementary school classes.

Some schools, including St. Mark’s and Greenhill, have implemented more lenient grading policies.

Graduation plans for the schools remain uncertain with many creating contingency plans should commencements take place in May, June, or July.

“This stinks,” said head of school Dave Monaco in a candid video address to seniors at Parish Episcopal School.

“Students invested a lot of time and energy getting to this point where they can celebrate their developmental journey and imminent move to college, so this is disquieting and hurtful and upsetting,” he said.

Ursuline seniors long for at least one more school day, Chapman said. “They would be more upset about not getting to thank their teachers than missing prom.”

Schools send weekly newsletters to keep parents updated and get feedback through surveys.

Monaco found that younger students are more teacher-dependent, so Parish teachers host virtual activities like read-aloud sessions and book clubs.

At Greenhill, teachers reach out to students weekly and celebrate birthdays on Zoom.

Parish parents attend virtual meetups and town meetings, teachers meet for social hours, and students celebrate milestones. On social media, Parish students share creative hobbies. The school also supports families by delivering meals to teachers, deferring monthly tuition, and endorsing family-owned businesses.

St. Mark’s students post videos and photos of their home adventures.

“The boys have really taken the lead to make sure that they’re caring for one another,” said communications director Katy Rubarth.

While the future ahead is undetermined, many remain optimistic.

“I know when we’re on the other side of this, we’ll have learned a lot about who we are as a school,” said Hark. “There’ll be lessons to draw from this that’ll make us an even better school when we’re back together.”

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Dalia Faheid

Dalia Faheid is a writer who has studied and worked in media since 2014. She pursued a BA in Emerging Media and Communication at UTD. She has experience in journalism, marketing, and technical writing. If you have a story idea for her, you can email Dalia at [email protected]. For the latest news, click here to sign up for our newsletter.

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