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Finishing the School Year Online
Kaycee Nakashima '20

Fifth grade students attend homeroom with Mr. Dana Sato '00 online via Google Meet. The students wore silly glasses they made at home for a lesson that encouraged the students to be silly. Photo courtesy of Dana Sato.

By Kaycee Nakashima '20

In early January, the World Health Organization began tracking a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. By the end of January, it was declared a novel coronavirus outbreak eventually named COVID-19. The world watched as COVID-19 cases grew exponentially, causing it to be declared a pandemic on March 11, forcing countries and businesses to shut down, pushing health systems to the brink of collapse, and creating an uncertain future.

When HBA began its Spring Break on March 13, little did anyone realize that there would be no return to school for the remainder of the school year. All schools statewide were closed, including HBA, and stay-at-home orders went into effect to “flatten” the curve of infections and slow the growth of the disease.

Due to COVID-19, Hawaii Baptist Academy immediately shifted to an online learning protocol for its return to school in mid-March. The teachers were able to quickly pivot since HBA had integrated technology into their curriculum many years prior. Teachers were already in the habit of videoing themselves for evaluations and were very familiar with the Google Platform utilized within the HBA curriculum. Students and faculty were able to meet through Google Meets and used Google Classroom to receive and turn in assignments. In addition, pre-recorded sessions and live meetings were held for students to participate in.

HBA continued with its extended ABC and DEFG schedule with Z-period at the end of each school day. Teachers made sure students could receive the extra help they needed by allowing them to schedule meetings outside of class hours with one other student to accompany them.

Counselors also sent out surveys at the end of each week to check students’ mental, emotional, and physical well-being. In addition, they ensured that students had the option to meet with their assigned counselor to talk about personal or school-related issues. The school kept students and parents up-to-date by sending out weekly “What’s Coming Up” eNewsletters that offered links to blogs to help parents. These blogs included how to deal with online meeting fatigue by Director of Counseling, Danford Chang, at-home workouts with P.E. teachers Joe and Tiffany Aguiar, daily devotionals and weekly online chapels.

Despite how the pandemic thwarted plans for the remainder of the school year, the school provided students many ways to remain engaged and participate in activities. HBA’s cross country and track coach, Derek Coryell, led online workouts via Google Meets to keep his students in shape during their canceled track season.

The pandemic also didn’t stop HBA from continuing its annual events such as the Arts and Film Festival that took place during the fourth quarter. The high school aired HBAAFF online, which featured films, documentaries, and art pieces that students created over the year. Fourth-grade teacher Jeri Rawlings encouraged her students to put on a Puppet Show to help them get over being shy by interacting online and creating new memories at home. HBA also celebrated 8th-grade student Brendan Aoki’s win at the HAIS District Science Fair in February, which was all conducted online.

Eighth grader Brendan Aoki  at the HAIS District Science Fair on February 15, where he won first place overall.  Aoki advanced to the Hawaii State Science Fair where he  placed first overall in the junior division on May 4. The competition was held online. Photo by Traci (Shibuya) Morihara ‘91. 

Hawaii Baptist Academy’s generosity also extended into the community by providing meals for the homeless. The school’s chefs prepared and served over 200 meals to those in need. Junior Lydia Lan and eighth-grader Euodia Lan raised $20,000 to purchase N95 face masks for health care workers at Kuakini Health Center. The sisters started a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising $10,000 but were able to raise double the amount. And elementary students Max and Jack Okazaki made cheer flowers and put them up in their community to raise the spirits of those passing by.

Amidst the change in current events, Hawaii Baptist Academy continues to provide its students with online learning resources. Just as administrators quickly changed gears for the end of this school year, they are making preparations for the 2020–2021 school year while still following CDC guidelines and honoring the school’s values.

This article was featured in the summer edition of the Soaring Eagle newsletter