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Devon Prep – Prepared for Success

DEVON, PA – Devon Prep Moves Online in Wake of Coronavirus Outbreak

School Strives for Normalcy in Uncertain Times

As schools across the nation shutter for indeterminate periods of time, Devon Prep’s Director of Academic Affairs knew his school had to find a way to continue.  “Not having class wasn’t an option,” said Mark Aquilante, a 1994 graduate of the school.

Each update on the Coronavirus brought increasing uncertainty, and the school didn’t want to leave its students, staff, and families wondering how the school would react.  Led by Headmaster Fr. Francisco Aísa, the school took action.  

“We could have either waited for the next announcement, or taken a proactive approach to moving forward,” said Fr. Aisa.  Devon Prep went with the latter, and the move is paying off. In only three days Devon Prep was able to move itself online, continuing students’ course work and class time with minimal interruption.  It’s something its administration felt was imperative.  

“I think schools have a moral obligation to continue providing for their students,” said Aquilante.  “It shouldn’t be the responsibility of mom and dad to come up with a curriculum for their child at a time like this.  That is our job.”

On March 12th Devon’s Administration called for a teacher in-service day to prepare for the shift to online teaching and learning. The following day the school closed for a full industrial cleaning, which allowed Devon’s students to remain home, days ahead of the state-wide shutdown.  Teachers and students used the time to pilot the online system, work through any issues, and prepare for the new reality of an entirely digital learning platform come Monday morning. 

Students have a full day of classes, starting at 8:30am and ending at 2:35pm, including seven class periods and an hour-long lunch break.  Attendance is taken at the beginning of each class and submitted to administration like normal. Each teacher has the autonomy to go live with their class or pre-record their lecture and upload.

“The online setup had to engage the boys and our teachers,” said Aquilante.  “What we’ve learned over the years is you can’t force change or something that’s fake.  If it’s authentic, they’ll buy in.”

Critical, too, is the school’s mandated use of technology within the classroom.  “This is the product of four years of professional development, getting used to learning management platforms and being mandated to use it,” said Kate Frank, Devon Prep’s Director of Technology.  “It’s just the addition of video conferencing.”

Small in-person class sizes allow the Devon Prep faculty to know each and every one of their students and those relationships continue, even through an online video conference.  “I’m not sure there’s another school in the area that can pull off what we’re doing. Our boys still want to learn, and I’m proud of our faculty for their commitment to their students and the school,” said Pat Kane, Devon’s Director of External Operations.

Having the students work from home has some unintended benefits, too, as parents get insight into the learning process of each class – including jokes, friendships, and student-teacher relationships.  Kane is getting a new look at his son’s 7th grade class.

“The best part is seeing how Ryan really interacts at school.  To hear how he presents to his teachers and the banter amongst his classmates is refreshing.  It’s something that you never get to witness,” said Kane

“These are definitely unusual times, but this is our opportunity to step forward and show how well-prepared we are for it,” Aquilante said.  “Families trust us to protect and provide their sons with an educational experience that prepares them for life. That’s what we’re doing.”

While each day brings new challenges, and the Coronavirus situation remains fluid, one of the most-impressive aspects of Devon Prep’s online system is this: the Administration believes the school year will end on-time for its students.