St. Joan Antida High School (SJA) began the 2020-21 school year with an innovative new learning model. To meet the academic, social, and emotional needs of the student body, SJA will combine daily virtual learning with a new bi-weekly in-person program called “SJA Connection Circles.“

School leadership believes starting virtually is in the best interest of students, their families and faculty to keep everyone safe and healthy given the current health crisis. However, seeing each other outside of a virtual classroom is critically important to the educational experience. The new SJA Connection Circles will provide three hours of student in-person time at school every other week. Each student will be placed with grade-level peers in small groups of 10 and will remain with this circle throughout the duration of the semester. During SJA Connection Circle programming, students will be able to engage with peers and faculty by participating in activities focused on relationship building, academic support and life skill development. The SJA Connection Circles program will follow all COVID-19 CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of students and faculty, and will begin in-person in September.

“We feel that building and establishing personal relationships with our students is critical to their success during virtual learning,” said Marikris Coryell, president of St. Joan Antida High School. “By integrating SJA Connection Circles into our schedule, a structure will exist that supports our students in the areas they may need it most.”

To prepare for the start of this school year, students were each provided a Chromebook and experience boxes for various subject areas that require hands-on engagement. The student schedule will have four 45-minute virtual classes a day with live classroom instruction from teachers. Knowing that studies have proven that high school students learn better later in the morning, classes will begin at 10 a.m. In addition, there will be virtual student study lounges, where extra academic support will be offered by faculty and tutors. Weekly student assemblies and clubs will also be offered for students to connect virtually outside of the classroom environment.

Virtual classes for the incoming freshwomen class began Monday, Aug. 17, and virtual classes for the sophomore, junior, and senior classes began Tuesday, Aug. 18.