The Hyde School in Bath is continuing its character-based education remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic. Courtesy Hyde School

BATH — With its High Street campus closed to students during the coronavirus pandemic, Hyde School strives to continue imparting its character-based education via remote means.

The private preparatory school, which has 140 students in grades 9-12 and a one-year post-graduate program, follows a college schedule. Spring break had already begun when the school announced March 12 that it would extend vacation one week, through March 29, with remote learning to begin the following day. Hyde also cancelled its April 24-26 spring family weekend and its normal spring sports schedule.

“Our faculty came back on the 23rd; we were still all isolated, but faculty took the week and learned how to teach remotely,” Hyde President Laura Gauld said. “Our faculty, like I think faculties all across the country, has really stepped up in such a big way.”

Although some weren’t able to return to campus, most faculty “are here, working remotely in their apartments, in their homes,” Gauld said.

Hyde, which draws students from around the world, had Chinese students forced to stay on the campus and unable to return home as coronavirus spread through their country early this year.

“When the crisis hit (in the U.S.), they were caught,” Gauld said. “We’re down to about six kids who are still here, trying to figure out travel to get home.”

It’s been a challenge for them, “but they’ve done a great job, and we’re slowly trying to help each one of them find their way back to China,” Gauld said.

Founded in 1966, the Hyde School gears its education toward academic achievement and character development alike. Continuing that focus through remote learning rather than face-to-face experiences can be difficult, but “character is more important in challenging times,” Gauld said.

“While we’re doing our academic classes, we’re also doing our Discovery Group character curriculum with the students, we’re doing physical exercise, we’re doing workshops for parents. We’re trying to bring as much of the curriculum as we can to our families.”

Rich Truluck, Hyde’s associate head of school, also teaches environmental science to about 10 students.

“I’ve been really impressed with the way my kids are handling (the situation),” he said. “They’ve been pretty conscientious about being on class, on time and engaged in the class.”

He said he’s found it a struggle “to really promote student engagement and dialogue” and finds it difficult to get the feel for how a student is doing when body language, eye contact and posture come through a computer screen instead of an actual classroom. Still, Truluck said he’s had good discussions online with his students and “a lot of the kids are rising to the occasion.”

Faculty is working hard to engage families in their children’s education. Along with their academic classes, students and their families participate in a Discovery Group call each day at 10:30 a.m., through which youths connect with a faculty advisor.

“That’s where we use the character education curriculum,” Truluck said, “and are also trying to deepen the conversation with the kids about ‘how are things going for you, how are things going with your families?’

“We try to listen, be supportive and also be challenging when we need to. Because sometimes there are some kids who want to sit in their pajamas and do class on their bed, and that’s not the most rigorous environment.”

Hyde also conducts webinars Monday through Thursday evenings; last week Truluck and his family hosted a cooking show.

Graduation, scheduled for May 30, has been postponed to an as-yet-undetermined date. Hyde hosts programming each summer and Gauld hopes it will be able to hold its summer leadership challenge program this July.

When classes do start up at Hyde again, she said, “I think it’ll be a new normal, whatever it’ll be.”

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