Lancaster private school pivots online

Ioannis Pashakis//March 26, 2020

Lancaster private school pivots online

Ioannis Pashakis//March 26, 2020

Henry Dennis, a student at Veritas Academy in Lancaster County, takes his Latin class online. PHOTO PROVIDED

Veritas Academy in Upper Leacock Township, Lancaster County has not only managed to get its classes up and running online for its 300 students, but is looking to offer a selection of video classes to students outside of the academy.

When the closures of schools statewide caused Veritas Academy to send its K through 12 students home, the Christian school’s headmaster sought help from an economic development program focused on small tech startups.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pa. is part of a network of Ben Franklin Technology Partners across the state that offer funds and assistance to growing technology firms. The organization’s director of business development, Andrew Long, is an advisor to Veritas’ school board and agreed to offer the school guidance with help from his staff at Ben Franklin.

“The school needed advice and wanted to reach out to us for help to get up and running as a community partner,” Long said. “Ben Franklin was able to help them run down their resources in the same way we would do with a company we were investing in.”

With help from Ben Franklin, Veritas was able to go from its brick-and-mortar school to completely online classes within a week. Headmaster Ty Fischer said that the difference between Veritas and other schools is that through Zoom conferencing, the school’s faculty have been able to resume their classes while other schools are using online resources but may not be moving forward on their curriculum.

Fischer said that during his conversations with Ben Franklin, Long and his team gave the school advice on technology and entrepreneurial issues and gave Fischer guidance on taking opportunities in a disrupted market.

Bruce Etter, academic dean at Veritas Academy, instructs teachers Harry Myrick and Kikuli Mwanukuzi how to record their online courses. PHOTO PROVIDED

Finding innovative ways to keep Veritas’ parents in the loop was also a source of conversation. Long said his team suggested adding video components to newsletters or releasing informal fireside chats.

Because Veritas’ classes are continuing as normally as they can in the current situation, Fischer said he can now turn his focus to using the opportunity to grow Veritas’ name in the currently disrupted private education market.

The school plans to do this by releasing videos of their classes for free online.

“It’s a great opportunity to be better known,” he said. “We are going to take some of our classes of every grade and put them out into the community.”

Fischer said that the school is in talks with area school districts to try to get students credit for the classes, particularly in preparation for AP exams that aren’t changing their testing dates.

Lancaster’s private education market is competitive and the offering of free classes could be what the 24-year-old school needs to stand out.

“We are still a young school and it’s hard to get everyone to know you,” Fischer said. “Giving these classes away is how we want people to get to know us.”