Behind the screen look at virtual learning for students and teachers

Posted at 2:52 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 23:00:33-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The education system is taking a hit due to the effects of the coronavirus.

On Friday, Governor Ralph Northam ordered all K-12 schools in the state to close for a minimum of two weeks.

Now, teachers are forced to get creative so students can still receive an education.

At St. Matthew's Catholic School in Virginia Beach, teachers and students have switched to digital learning.

“In front of the classroom, it’s different - I can have them raise their hand, I can call on them, but I know I’m going to have 22 little bodies staring at me in a computer because it’s all live," says first grade teacher Ali Thomas.

Like all other teachers in the school, Thomas is now connecting with her students via webcam. Under the direction of Gov. Northam, the school is placing an emphasis on social distancing to lower the coronavirus curve.

All students are joined on the daily call and can ask questions by typing a message or unmuting their microphone.

"It feels like I’m at school because I’m working, but I’m really at home," first grader Charlotte Charbenneau said.

The creative solution to continue education has taken the stress off of some parents.

Related: Turning the dining room into a classroom: How to home school your kids during the coronavirus pandemic

Charlotte's mom, Jennifer, told News 3, “I really think it’s good to still keep them engaged and doing something even when they’re at home. It’s not just a vacation."

The students meet Monday through Friday, but their time in the virtual classroom is shortened from a typical day.

For example, the younger grades only meet for an hour, while the middle school students may meet for two or three.

Even with the changes, Thomas said every minute together is better than the alternative.

"You know what - I'm doing something in the little hour that I have to make sure they're learning something."

Even though the classrooms may be empty for a while, teachers say they’re prepared to teach their students this way for as long as they need to.