Updated: Jul 4, 2020
When Fawzia Belal learned that the principal of her school was stepping down, she had no idea of the extent she’d be stepping up.
Weeks later, the former vice principal, now principal, of Qalam Collegiate Academy had to contend with not only a learning curve for the new role but also that of crisis manager, chief consoler and development officer all rolled into one,
The private girls school she leads, with 52 students from middle to high school, is believed to be one of only two Muslim girls schools in the country.
The school decided it would not extend spring break amid the emerging corona virus pandemic and would instead immediately return online and full time. This decision embodies the spirit of the school, she says.
“Key decisions needed to be made, and I had to be prepared to make them and execute them,” Belal says. “The responsibility of ensuring continuity of learning, student engagement, prevention of learning loss and helping our girls adjust to the new normal was and is enormous, but I had to rise to the challenge and deliver for their sake.”
The 7-year-old school, which has dual accreditation with Rich land College so that all girls graduate with a high school diploma as well as an associate degree, has been able to turn its small size into an advantage, Belal says. No extended breaks were needed, and small class sizes meant teachers and students were already connected. Teachers even went to students’ homes and dropped off supplies.
The school’s band of 12 teachers, almost all of whom were also primary caregivers as moms and wives, turned their efforts to a seamless finish to the school year. Online doors opened via Zoom promptly at 8 a.m., with a tardy recorded after 8:15 a.m. Students’ presence was required for the duration with live classes, including physical education via Zoom and a social hour. Homework was not assigned; school ended at 3:35 p.m., with time for after-school activities such as a garden club, where girls made videos of their gardening projects, and SAT prep classes.
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