Local independent schools adjusting to new COVID-19 reality

Kootenay Christian Academy, St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School adapting routines to teach remotely

KCA staff practiced physical distancing while recently driving by and waving at the homes of students. Photo submitted.

KCA staff practiced physical distancing while recently driving by and waving at the homes of students. Photo submitted.

Cranbrook’s two independent schools are adjusting and adapting given the suspension of in-class learning due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Staff with both Kootenay Christian Academy and St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School are continuing to provide learning opportunities to students through their respective curriculum using technology and video conferencing.

Since the end of the spring break, KCA staff were putting lesson plans in place and figuring out how the rest of the school year was going to look like.

“One of our big goals these next few weeks is to care and communicate with families and find out what their needs are, how they’re doing,” said Wendy Zurrin, the principal of KCA.

Zurrin said staff has been working on streamlining communications so that parents aren’t overwhelmed, while ensuring that both staff and families have the necessary technological capabilities.

A particular focus is learning as a family through different activities rather than separating the learning through various school assignments, Zurrin added. Staff meet every morning via video conferencing to check in with each other before getting started on the day.

“I think that’s going to be key through this whole thing, is keeping some personal connection with staff, with students and the families,” said Zurrin. “What that looks like is kind of different for everybody, but I think just care and communicating, that’s what we’re hoping for through this.”

The preschool is closed, however, it does open intermittently for children of essential service workers. The school itself is technically open, however, many teachers are working from home, Zurrin added.

READ: School district staff reaching out to students, parents for educational guidance

At St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School, staff have also transitioned to teaching online and is utilizing video-conferencing technology to stay connected with each other, students and families.

Online classes started on April 6, according to Jerelynn MacNeil, the principal of the school. She said there’s been lots of direction and guidance from district superintendents, as well as the Ministry of Education and the Federation of Independent Schools Association (FISA).

“Really the message to schools, including schools like mine, was start off slow, do what you can handle, and then add as you go, and the ministry said the same thing,” said MacNeil. “Don’t try to do everything in the first week or all at once, because you’ll just overwhelm everybody.”

MacNeil said staff has been working on helping families with their at-home technology and finding a work-life balance while staff, parents and students navigate the COVID-19 reality.

“I told my staff numeracy and literacy are the building blocks, then we’ll add as we go and I think they’ve done a great job,” MacNeil said.

Both St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School and Kootenay Christian Academy are also looking ahead for the next school year and accepting student registrations.


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