The All-Encompassing CBA Experience Goes Online
April 2, 2020
When Christian Brothers Academy was forced to close its campus and move to online instruction back on March 12th, it didn’t signal a halt of the holistic CBA experience for nearly 875 students.
The worldwide COVID-19 virus outbreak has moved education across the nation to an online format, but the administration, faculty and staff at CBA have worked hard to replicate the uniqueness of the Academy in a virtual way.
Getting into the Online Rhythm
During the first week of the online experience, elements of the “regular” CBA school day were evident right away: morning prayers sent via email at 8:30 a.m. from Campus Minister Matt Butler, teachers connected with students via lively conference call discussions, and the administration communicated expectations with students and parents in a clear and concise way.
Of course, faculty members needed to get creative with their lessons during this unprecedented time of online instruction. Science and engineering teacher Therese Heidelberger saw it as an opportunity to “expand on what the students are familiar with from physical school days.”
She has used the platform Pear Deck, which allows her to make Google Slides into an interactive lesson for the students. After the interactive portion is finished, Heidelberger can add notes to the lesson and send the class her “takeaways.”
“The students have been really happy with the Pear Deck and Google Slides lessons,” Heidelberger said. “Most of the students have said it makes it easy to learn the topic and also makes it feel like real, in-person class.”
English teacher Kevin Huvane also worked hard to make his literature lessons as normal and engaging as possible. Like many teachers, he has used the PowerSchool Learning Management System (LMS) as throughly as possible by consistently updating the material posted.
“Ultimately, I am trying to maintain both lines of communication and levels of academic rigor,” Huvane said. “The assignments, as well as the various ways I try to reach out to the students, enable us both to achieve some level of normalcy.”
The transition to online learning was not without bumps in the road. The LMS has experienced sluggish or unresponsive moments, forcing teachers to find alternate ways to get lessons and information to the students. Unsurprisingly, the faculty has risen to the challenges during these first few weeks, led by the steady academic leadership of Associate Principal Sean Nunan.
Keeping Community Engagement Flowing
The regularity of the online experience took hold during the second week of what Principal Ross Fales called the “new normal” for the time being. While much of the typical school day remained, new pieces were added to help students adjust to the reality of the situation.
Fales, who normally leads the in-school Monday morning prayer, sent a video prayer to students on the last two Monday mornings. Faculty members have followed his lead by turning the morning prayer into a video.
The student media group, the CBA Digital Network, began posting reflections from students who wished to speak their mind, while also starting a “Social Distancing Series” to give students some suggestions to keep occupied in their downtime.
Director of Athletics Vito Chiaravalloti scheduled both student-athletes and coaches workshop sessions via Zoom conferences. Open to all students, the workshops focused on specific topics such as team culture, the power of positive thinking, cognitive reframing, and self-esteem. Most of the varsity sports were encouraged to hold a “team huddle” on Fridays, where the individual coaches connected with their teams.
While the final weekend of Pegasus Production Company’s spring musical was canceled, the performers began to post short clips of their musical talents on social media, keeping the performances flowing during this time online. English teacher Andrew Cusick has contributed to the musical spirit, giving students tips on playing the guitar through Twitter videos.
Dean of Students Matt Meehan has sent the student body “check-in videos” each week, giving the Academy men something poignant to think about, while also making sure they know he is always available to chat.
Looking Ahead to the Next Few Weeks
Dean of Campus Life Maureen Szablewski continues to keep a dialogue with club and activity moderators in order to keep the extracurricular atmosphere present during these online weeks.
The Pegasus Yearbook has worked hard to not miss a beat in producing this year’s edition, while the Arister Literary Magazine has been meeting virtually to continue to produce their 2020 magazine. Additional clubs, such as the Italian Cultural Society, have planned meetings over the two weeks of Easter break.
The Student Council, led by faculty moderator Nick Galeotafiore, is organizing a series of virtual student engagement activities over the scheduled break. They will kick off an online NHL ’20 video game tournament on Monday, with more tournaments hopefully to follow.
The two weeks of Easter break will give students a time to decompress from a whirlwind last three weeks, while also connecting through lighthearted, virtual activities with their teams, clubs or groups.
However, it is no surprise that Academy men have taken this unexpected school year twist in stride.
“My thought for everyone is to stay positive through this, no matter what is thrown our way,” said senior and Student Council President Nick Emilio. “The CBA community is strong and I know we will persevere through these unsettling times.”