HUDSON — Western Reserve Academy is telling students to stay home and take classes online instead of returning to campus after spring break because of coronavirus concerns.
WRA announced the temporary shift to online learning Monday after Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency. The state has four confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, three neighboring Cuyahoga County and one in Stark County.
"At Western Reserve Academy, we have had a proactive plan in place for mitigating risk related to the coronavirus and for ensuring safety, calm and clarity," Head of School Suzanne Walker Buck said in a prepared statement. "We move forward with our plan in order to mitigate risk and the consequences of inaction."
WRA has about 400 students from 25 countries and 26 states.
Buck said students are attending in-person classes this week, and the school’s two-week spring break starts Saturday, March 14. When classes resume on March 31, Buck said students will spend two weeks in a distance learning module. As of now, in-person classes are scheduled to resume on April 14.
"With this distance model in place, we will have the flexibility and the experience to be able to extend [distance learning longer] should it be medically prudent to do so," said Buck.
Buck said WRA faculty will use an online distance learning management system called Canvas to post videos and assignments, and students can log in to see their assignments and submit their work by established deadlines.
"We’re working with all of our teachers on creating meaningful learning experiences for our students, and not assigning work for the sake of assigning work," said Buck.
During this time frame, Buck emphasized that a course such as math or history will cover the same content, but the material will be delivered in a different manner.
"As opposed to the teacher really being the chief facilitator, there's going to be more independent learning that can be guided by the faculty member," said Buck.
For a ceramics class, students may instead work on sketches or perform research about different techniques. She added students may have to mix flour and water to make their own materials for their creations.
Since Monday’s announcement, Buck said students have been "brainstorming" with one another and their teachers about what can be done to make the online learning experience a productive one. She noted a group of art students discussed sharing their projects through Pinterest pages. WRA typically has all-school morning meetings on Mondays and Fridays. Buck said some students are trying to determine how such a meeting could occur through a virtual platform.
"Students can partner with faculty in terms of really designing and collaborating [on] what distance learning can look like and what will work well for them," said Buck.
As distance learning occurs for two weeks in April, Buck noted faculty will "meet multiple times" to assess how the process is going. Discussions will also occur during spring break.
As of Wednesday, Buck said there were about 10 to 12 WRA students whose homes are outside of the United States who will be staying on campus during spring break. Buck noted it is "not advisable [for those students] to return to their [home] country" due to concerns about COVID-19. She added the precise number of students who are remaining on campus is changing each day. Some countries are not allowing people to come in unless they've had a 14-day quarantine.
About 65 to 70 percent of WRA’s 400 students and 80 percent of the school’s faculty live on campus during the school year.
"This is unchartered territory for all of us," said Buck. She noted the situation is giving the staff a chance to utilize a new tool and "to develop a new teaching skill."
The school year is scheduled to end just before Memorial Day.
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.