WOOD RIVER JCT — Chariho Tech’s open house has always been a hands-on evening, with prospective students and their parents visiting classrooms, talking with instructors and exploring equipment and exhibits.
The annual event is the Chariho Regional School District’s opportunity to recruit students and showcase its 21 career and technical programs, but this year, pandemic safety precautions have made holding an in-person open house impossible.
Chariho Tech Director Gerald Auth said the district has adapted the open house to a virtual format that participants will access through the school’s website.
“We’ve done a considerable amount of advertising to direct people to our website … and on that website, there is a link to our agenda where there will be an introduction from me, for about 10 minutes, and then you’ll be able to virtually jump into any classroom that you’re interested in and you can stay for 10 minutes or two hours, jumping from classroom to classroom.”
The website contains links to live information sessions, presented by instructors, that will be available from 6:15 to 7:30 p.m.
Auth said he was hoping people would give the new format a try.
“I don’t know what to expect but we already have interest in our programs. Our applications are up from last year, which is good. I track that by the day. I can see that people are still considering us as an educational option next year,” he said.
Career and technical programs usually involve extensive practical learning. Chariho Superintendent Gina Picard said the district has adapted those programs for students who are distance learning in addition to those who have opted for in-person instruction.
“Planning for CTE [career and technical education] programs, like everything else, has been a challenge during the pandemic. It has been important for us to review best practices and to rethink and shape our future planning of CTE to ensure our students receive robust experiences," Picard said. "Face to face instruction is ideal and we have worked diligently to ensure we can provide in-person experiences to all students. However, we have had some of our CTE families prefer to remain with distance learning for a variety of reasons. Therefore, in our planning, those distance learning approaches may sometimes mean allowing students on campus for hands-on lab work.
"We have been very lucky that our district continues to offer in-person instruction and those experiences are very important. However, the pandemic pushed us to revisit how to provide our students with a multifaceted approach. I continue to be impressed and encouraged that our CTE programs remain the top in the state.”
Auth said the district’s 1:1 program, introduced several years ago, had equipped all students with laptop computers and paved the way for distance learning.
“I think we’re doing better than most because our students were 1 to 1,” he said. “We were used to learning with these online management platforms.”
Auth pointed to the the advertising, design and digital printing program, where instructor Ed Rose is teaching students Adobe software at home and in class simultaneously.
“My advertising teacher is doing Adobe work and he’s got kids that are on a Zoom at home that he’s talking to and he’s talking to kids in the classroom, and they’re all able to collaborate together just by some of the software we’re using and some of the strategies that we’ve implemented.”
Auth said the open house would provide an opportunity for parents and students to ask questions and speak with instructors.
“I think this is the best opportunity for our community to learn about the programs, because they’re going to hear from the instructors themselves,” he said. “Instructors are going to be there. Most of them are going to be in their classrooms and they’re going to be able to talk to each parent specifically about the program. Because we’re not able to bring people into the school, this is the best opportunity and I’m happy to meet everyone that comes in and have conversations with parents as well and answer questions.”
The open house will take place Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. Links to the programs will be available on the Chariho Tech website at https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wCLwPWMaxPHP0hI3s0oZNwyEM89SCSUcjAxrcAdfXog/edit.