The building is closed, but school is still in session at Milton Christian School
Teachers, parents and students are in unchartered waters with the closure of schools across the province. For Milton Christian School (MCS), the pivot to home-based, teacher-supported learning began the week immediately following March Break. Principal Howie Martin shares how this this private, faith-based elementary school approached distance learning, and some important reminders for parents as we navigate new challenges together.
How did Milton Christian School react to the announcement of school closures?
Before the government announced private school closures, our leadership team already planned a two-week closure out of an abundance of precaution. The official government mandate further confirmed this was the right call. The health and safety of our students is our top priority. Once the decision was made, our staff went into planning mode to ensure curriculum programming would be ready the week after March Break. From the get-go, it was important for our parents and students to understand that this was a building closure, not a school closure.
That was a very fast time to pivot to distance learning. How did the launch go?
We launched with an intentional two-week “test and learn” phase. Our teachers worked hard to create an at-home, teacher-supported program. Kindergarten to Grade 3 teachers used the Class Dojo app to deliver weekly and daily plans, while our Grade 4 to 8 teachers ramped up the integration of Google Classrooms. We tested the use of videos, Zoom calls (both small and large group sizes), recorded lessons, recorded “read-alouds”, sending printable work for the young ones, and more. Parents picked up curriculum packages and students’ Chromebooks in a drive-through format at the beginning of the week so students would have the workbooks they needed. I’ve sent three different surveys to collect parent feedback about what’s working well and what could be improved along the way. Those comments have helped shape where we are today.
What does at-home, teacher-supported learning look like at MCS today?
I can speak to this as both the principal and a parent (my son is in Senior Kindergarten). Teachers send an “at-a-glance” overview of the work for each week. Class Dojo and Google Classroom (depending on the grade) are where parents and students can access recorded lessons, Zoom meeting links, and assignments. Teachers connect with their students on a regular basis and we’ve added an online tutor with daily Zoom office hours for anyone who needs support to “pop in”. We know families have a wide range of capacity when it comes to managing their children. We’ve made it clear to our families that they should only complete what they can manage. At our own home, we tend to focus on math, reading and writing with our son. These are very challenging times and I encourage every parent to only take on what is feasible.
How does MCS maintain a sense of community during this time of social distancing?
One of the reasons why so many of our families return year after year is the wonderful sense of community. In spite of not being able to be together in person, we try to keep up that sense of community in a few other ways. We are actively using our Facebook page to post daily fun challenges, each week our Bible teacher, Pastor Jim, posts an encouraging video message for online “chapel”. I host an open Zoom time every Friday with parents and just recently we had our first-ever online Association meeting with over 50 participants. This month, I’ll be working with our Kindergarten and Grade 8 teachers to deliver special graduation surprises for our Senior Kindergarten and Grade 8 students. While we look forward to an official ceremony in the future, we want to do something to make this time still feel special for them.
For questions and inquiries about Milton Christian School, please contact Principal Howie Martin at [email protected]
Principal – Milton Christian School
45 Bruce Street
Milton ON, L9T 2L5
(905) 878-0550 Ext. 101