School president Dr. Douglas Laurie sent out an email to students at 12:30 PM Friday, March 13 announcing the school’s closing next week and shift to digital classes the week of March 30 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Less than four hours later, Miami Dade and Broward County schools announced their respective closures effective Monday, March 16.
High school principal Mrs. Elise Blum sat down yesterday afternoon to answer a few questions regarding the impacts of the outbreak and Heritage.
How long is the school expected to stay close?
“If I knew that, I’d be on the news. We’re going week by week. We are going to close next week to get the teachers ready to go so that, after spring break, we can go online. There will be some classes that will actually meet, where you’ll be logging in and having a conversation, and there will be other times where you’re just doing work that’s posted or maybe watching a video or just doing assignments on your own,” Mrs. Blum said. “We know we are going to do that for the week after spring break, and then we’re going to play it by ear. We have to go based on what we will be hearing from the government, health department, board of education, and the media, and then we’ll decide. The reason we’re closing school isn’t because anyone’s sick; it’s a public health thing. We have to think about the greater good of the community.”
Since we are already using Google Classroom, what other technological programs will we be using?
“We are using the Google Suite, in addition to Google Classroom. Almost every teacher is using Google Classroom already, but we will also be using Google Hangouts Meet, and that enables you to all join together. We can get up to 250 people into a class at a time. We use it all the time here at school for meetings; we just had a meeting with Boca through it,” Mrs. Blum said. “It works. It’s going to be different, but it works. We know we’re going to run into problems, and we’re just going to have to troubleshoot, and that’s why we’re not going into a full-on version of online classes. We will only have classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You’ll pretty much follow the bell schedule; we’ll adjust it a little bit so it doesn’t start at weird times, and classes will only be about half an hour. On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, teachers will be posting assignments or videos or maybe have long-term projects for you to be working on yourself with due dates. On these days, you’ll also be able to schedule individual appointments with your teachers from 7:45 to 3:00. Everything will be on Planbook like it always is, so you can keep up with what you need to do.”
Please note that all programs work on iPads and a computer is not necessary. Mrs. Pam Holifield will send an email to students soon with more detailed information regarding digital course setup.
How are assessments going to work?
“Assessments are going to be very alternative. We can’t give you a traditional test when you have other resources. They’re really thinking out of the box,” Mrs. Blum said. “There will probably be more writing to test comprehension. We can use Google Classroom, Quizlets, Examsoft and other things. The longer we do this, the better we’ll get at it. Mrs. Hollifield is going to work with the teachers through this process to help them find solutions. I hope we don’t have to do this for very long, but, if we have to, I think as we do it, you’re going to see it change as the teachers learn more and more.”
Are teachers going to teach from home?
“They are going to teach from home. We’ve had a couple teachers ask if they can come and teach from their classroom, and we’re going to let them if they want to. Right now we’re practicing social distancing, not quarantining, so we don’t have a problem with individual teachers being in their classroom. We’re going to have one administrator and one secretary working in the office each day while the others work from home,” Mrs. Blum said.
What happens if a student cannot attend a live session?
“The deans are going to be tracking attendance, and we’re going to develop a system so that people can report an absence. All sessions are mandatory, but the Tuesday and Thursday lessons will be posted online on the portal after it happens. Every lesson is recorded and posted. It also enables me, the principal, to go in and watch these lectures,” Mrs. Blum said. “It’s going to give the students the ability to log into the video every night and watch the videos. Every class is going to have an ‘exit pass’ that proves that students attended the class each day.”
What is the status of senior events (grad bash, prom, graduation, etc.)?
“I just heard today that Universal and Disney are closing until the end of March, so we have to wait and see. We haven’t done anything yet; we’re not pulling the trigger on it, and I would love to go to grad bash. I don’t want to cancel it, but we have to do whatever’s healthy and safe, and I think Universal does too. Anything after that is just one day at a time. If we’re back in school by then, we’ll have senior breakfast and everything is back. We’re not cancelling anything yet, and we’re going to wait as long as we can. We will probably wait until Universal cancels grad bash before we do,” Mrs. Blum said. “An event like graduation is something they wouldn’t let us have right now, but that’s in May, so we’re going to wait. I have no idea what the arena is going to do; I can’t even fathom a backup plan. We would have to get creative and see what other schools across the country are doing.”
Are school trips still permitted?
“Any overnight, out-of-state trips that require airline travel have been cancelled through the end of April. We haven’t cancelled anything in May. Most competitions are cancelled, anyway, though,” Mrs. Blum said. “Once we get back to school, if the local events are still going on, then we can still go to those.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“I feel sorry for the students right now, especially the seniors. It’s really a bummer, but I think it’d be cool for everyone to journal what’s going on in their lives right now. It’s a piece of history, and it would be interesting to look back on,” Mrs. Blum said. “At the end of the day, I want everyone to remember that we’re really lucky and blessed because we all have homes to go to and food to eat. We don’t have to worry about kids who don’t eat if they don’t come to school. We’re blessed with homes and technology and teachers who want to help. It could be worse.”