- Courtesy The Doane Stuart School
Like every other school in New York State, the Doane Stuart School in Rensselaer is exploring the new frontier of full-time distance learning. With their facilities closed through the end of the school year, they’re facing an unprecedented challenge to the traditional way they educate young students. But the private college preparatory school that serves grades pre-K through 12 is quickly rising to the challenge. “The building may be closed, but Doane Stuart is still open,” says Head of School Cecil Stodghill.
In February, when the novel Coronavirus was just beginning to show up in a few sporadic cases around the country, Doane Stuart began crafting an academic continuity plan to allow a switch to remote learning. “Our IT manager went to each classroom and we did a mock setup of distance learning,” says Director of Communication Jacqueline Kirkpatrick. “So when the governor said we had to close, we were ready to go.”
Now, as New York State enters its eighth week of school closures, Doane Stuart is operating in a virtual capacity that closely mimics their usual routine. Their students are in class from 8:15am to 3:15pm, the same as a regular school day. From practical science labs to an English lesson about Dr. Seuss, over 65 classes are still in session, mostly conducted through video lessons on Zoom. “You cannot imagine how thrilled not only our kids have been, but their parents as well,” says Stodghill. “It gives them structure and a sense of normalcy.”
With the pivot to a new remote learning program, the school has also committed to sharing some of its resources with a wider community. The school is now hosting a public Google Drive folder of video lessons on an array of subjects. Created at home by the school’s faculty, these short lessons can help kids anywhere learn about particle motion, brush up on their French literature, or pick up new art skills.
Given the success of Doane Stuart’s pivot to online learning, the school is hoping to expand its educational community to a wider network of students in other cities, states, and even countries in the future. “We’re working hard on opening up our platform a little more for students that are either homeschooled or abroad,“ says Stodghill. “We know that we have the capacity and the knowledge to deal with that comfortably now."