By Madhava Smullen

On June 4th, Bhaktivedanta Academy – a Montessori school serving the New Raman Reti community in Alachua, Florida – will reach a successful end to its most challenging school year so far. The heroic effort from teachers and staff has provided primary to high school age students with a safe environment in which their education and social and mental health has been cared for during the pandemic.

It all began in March 2020 when Covid first hit and the State of Florida kept schools closed after Spring Break, requiring Bhaktivedanta Academy to go virtual until the end of the school year. Students took classes via video on Google Meet, and did individual work at home which they sent in for evaluation. Screen time was adjusted depending on the age of the child. The switch was a major transition not only for students but also for teachers, as they did their best to provide continuity of learning and a sense of normalcy.

“The teachers weren’t spending as many hours directly teaching students, but they were spending a considerable number preparing for everything that students would need to learn from home,” says Principal Visvambhara Aguilera. “So when we did an analysis to see the amount of time required, they were actually spending more time working than they had in person.”

Teachers also provided as much family support as they could, making themselves available to troubleshoot situations at home for parents who had been thrown into a homeschooling role. And they were flexible, understanding that parents were doing their best in unique circumstances, and working with them wherever they were at.

During the summer of 2020, when there was little guidance yet from the state or federal level, Visvambhara and Bhaktivedanta Academy staff did their own research on how to keep safe if in-person schooling returned, drawing from trusted sources and school models that were then operating in Europe. So when school returned in August and the Florida state mandate was to have on-campus education, they were prepared.

Over the summer the school impaneled a medical team of practicing doctors and nurses that would evaluate safety standards. Finding that air quality was an important mitigation factor, staff had UV light systems and high quality media filters installed in the school’s central air conditioning units, as well as standalone air filtration systems in all the classrooms. They also programmed the AC so that air would constantly circulate, and installed plexiglass barriers between two-person desks. 

Read more: https://iskconnews.org/alachuas-bhaktivedanta-academy-successfully-keeps-students-safe-throughout-pandemic-school-year,7824/

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