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Above, Gayle Peters, in one of her “Basement Chemistry Videos," guides her students through a review of Dalton’s Law of Partial Pressures. Below, Alanna Vickman and students in her Challenge and Change course have an online mini parliamentary debate about the environmental impact of declining bee populations.IMAGES COURTESY OF ST. MILDRED’S-LIGHTBOURN SCHOOL

For boarding schools, the pandemic has made things different but by no means insurmountable.

“It’s not much of a stretch for them to adapt and modify to create a bubble and meet the needs of health authorities,” says parent Carey Booth, whose son started at Brentwood College School in Mill Bay, B.C., in the fall and has been able to continue his schooling in-person during the pandemic. “With modifications and deliberate steps you can create a bubble.”

Communication has helped to create a sense of normalcy, not just for students, but also for parents.

This includes everything from social media channels that parents can follow, as well as “very purposeful and useful videos from school leadership,” Booth says.

“I’m going on Instagram right now and I can tell you what they had for dinner last night,” Booth says. “It’s not hard to see how they’ve been able to achieve a degree of normalcy. There’s no guessing on the parents’ part on how things are going there.”

In B.C., health authorities have allowed cohorts of up to 120 students for senior grades.

“We use our boarding houses as cohorts,” says Liam Sullivan, deputy head of student life at Brentwood.

There are around 50 to 60 students from Grade 9 to Grade 12 in each boarding house. They’ve also set up classrooms so cohorts can sit together.

“We’re not an online school and we don’t want to be an online school. We don’t believe that is our niche at all. Our blueprint is face-to-face interactions with students and 24/7 transformative learning,” Sullivan says.

That means offering everything they normally would – just a bit differently. Lunches still take place in the dining hall (but are staggered) and musical and dance presentations still take place (but are livestreamed).

“In this situation, providing normalcy and routine is very much comforting,” Sullivan says. “That consistency … we feel has been really beneficial for our students, our teachers and our administration to maintain as much of our experience as we could.”


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