SIS uniquely prepared for possible pandemic

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WHEN Dr. Ron Snyder, the headmaster of Saipan International School, came to Saipan in 2016, little did he know that his experience with virtual learning would be put to the test again.

Saipan International School counselor Whit Altizer, left, with headmaster Dr. Ron Snyder.  SIS photo

While serving as the secondary principal in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dr. Snyder successfully led his school through a forced closure due to a possible H1N1 outbreak. In order to ensure continuity of instruction, teachers moved their classes online and were able to successfully prepare their students for a demanding set of International Baccalaureate exams in May. Because of this resounding success, Quality Schools International asked Dr. Snyder to become the founding director of QSI Virtual School, a post he held until 2014.

SIS has worked with the Division of Public Health to overhaul its admissions procedures and has issued a policy for students traveling to infected areas that includes a mandatory home quarantine.

“There is a lot of panic around Covid-19 currently and I believe that our children are in a safe place. But it is important to us to minimize any possibly threat to our students’ safety. So we have put in place measures that exceeds governmental standards,” said Snyder.

As a part of the student safety committee, SIS counselor Whit Altizer and school nurse April Liske-Clark worked with the leadership team to design an overarching policy to maximize student safety.

Snyder earned a doctor of education degree after completing a five-year study on the best practices for student acceptance and use of online technologies. His findings included a focus on relatedness needs of students to increase engagement in an online environment.

Building off of the design principles developed for the study, SIS has developed an online platform for instructional delivery that will include daily video contact with teachers.

All SIS teachers will undergo training in online learning next Monday and plans are in place for conducting a “virtual fire drill” to test out its system.

Additionally, with the support of Tim Thornburgh and PSS-Federal Programs, SIS was able to implement a 1:1 program in 2017, whereby each student has access to a device (iPad or Laptop) to access the Internet for research and learning purposes.

SIS students use technology daily at school and are familiar with learning systems such as Class Dojo, Google Classroom, Moodle, AP Classroom and the school’s online learning management system, OpenSIS.

SIS wishes the entire CNMI a safe transition through this difficult time and a robust recovery once the dangers have passed.

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