Fifth-grader at Christ the Teacher School learns both from home and in the classroom with video help
GLASGOW — Adie DiOrrio has attended Christ the Teacher Catholic School since preschool, but a medical condition nearly forced the 10-year-old fifth-grader into a different situation.
Adie suffers from a muscular weakness that limits her abilities to perform certain physical tasks, such as getting up and down stairs. She had been able to attend Christ the Teacher for several years without significant issues, but an accident at the school toward the end of the last school year contributed to a change this year.
Adie was knocked over unintentionally and hit her head on the floor.
“It was pretty bad,” said her father, Tom. “It was pretty close to having surgery on her head to relieve the blood.”
The family knows it was an accident, “but she can’t continue to take blows like that,” he said.
In addition, school personnel “noticed last year where it was becoming more difficult for her. We could see it at school,” said Mercy Sister LaVerne King, the principal.
Neither the school nor the family wanted to withdraw Adie from Christ the Teacher, where she has many friends and has thrived academically. After considering homeschooling and other options, Adie has remained at Christ the Teacher. In an innovative approach, she spends part of her day at the school with her classmates, and the rest at home — with her classmates.
Classes by video
After spending the first two periods in school, Adie heads home where, thanks to her father’s employer, she is linked via a live video feed with her teachers and classmates. After a few initial hiccups, it has worked without a hitch, everyone says.
“We have morning prayer in the gym, and she comes in, and there are eight or 10 girls who come right up and sit around her. She’s kind of at the side, protected from the crowds of kids coming and going, but they all come plop themselves down around her. And they chat until it’s time to start. She has a clique of very tight friends and she’s able to continue with that,” Sister LaVerne said.
“The teachers call it her entourage,” Angela DiOrrio said.
“Now I can still see my friends and hang out with them,” Adie said recently at her home about a mile from school. “And get a good education,” she quickly added, sneaking a peek at her parents nearby.
Her friends have been eager to help her out, Adie said.
“I have really good classmates. They carry my books around. If I need someone to go down the elevator with me, they love to do that – a lot. There’s like a line,” she said.
The monitor in the back of the classroom is really like another desk, Angela said. It’s almost as if Adie is there.
“The teachers are so good including her,” Angela said. “Yesterday, they had to break up in groups, and they had Adie with some people. She was going right back and forth with them. The day before they were playing ‘Jeopardy’ and somebody would buzz in for her. It’s very interactive.”
When they were discussing this setup, Tom DiOrrio approached Joe Mirolli, his manager at Assurance Media, where DiOrrio is a services manager. Assurance provides premise security, such as surveillance systems, access control, audio-video systems and phone systems. In fact, the company wired Christ the Teacher when it was built.
DiOrrio said he just wanted advice from Mirolli about what kinds of equipment would make it work best. Mirolli, in turn, approached the owners of the business, and Assurance Media donated the equipment at least for this academic year. The company, DiOrrio said, is trying to expand its business and saw this as a win-win situation.
“He actually went above and beyond. He said, ‘We can do this, and we can do that,’” DiOrrio said.
The family is not sure what will happen next year, but that is something they will worry about later.
Adie does come into school for various labs and other activities.
“When they have big projects or whatever, they let my wife come in with her, just in case she needs assistance, so she can be involved,” DiOrrio said.
Two classrooms across the hall from each other have been equipped for Adie’s equipment. The teacher and Adie can see each other, and Adie can zoom her camera in to see what is being written on the whiteboard. Her teachers can call on her to answer questions.
A desk and desktop
“She can even, if they’re working on a report or a Word document, she can load that from home and put it on the screen to show the teacher, this is what I’m working on,” DiOrrio said. “Anything on her desktop, she can put it on the screen. Split-screen it, whatever.”
Adie said she hasn’t had trouble concentrating on classroom activities when she’s at home, and her grades have actually improved. The best part, she said, is that she’s “less tired at the end of the day, and I can watch TV at lunch.”
Sister LaVerne informed the parents of Adie’s classmates about the situation just in case there were any concerns or questions. There were none. In fact, she said, several families wanted to know how they could help.
Adie is unable to participate in physical education, so her physical therapy has become the substitute. She is as much a part of the class as the students who are there all day, including her twin brother, Brandon, and older sister Ashley, a seventh-grader.
Tom DiOrrio said Brandon has experienced the only downside so far. “I don’t think he was overly thrilled the other day when he was home sick and he realized he could still tap into class from home. Ang was like, ‘Well, you can go over there and pay attention.’ He was like, ‘Really?’”