Houghton Academy Offers Two New Programs For Students: Live Stream And Houghton Online
By Jennifer Lamey
This year Houghton Academy expanded their school to reach students near and far. Due to travel restrictions and many factors the fall 2020 semester held many obstacles that Houghton Academy staff and students overcame and, in the process, opened up new opportunities. Launching this academic year is Houghton Academy Live Stream.
As students and faculty faced state and federal restrictions, quarantine guidelines, and remaining healthy and safe many aspects of daily life had to change. One thing that could not change was the high standard of academic excellence. Mr. Retz, Head of School at Houghton Academy said the objective was “to provide continuity of instruction.” To do this Mr. Anthony Petrillo, IT Manager, and students worked together to develop systems for online education. As they put their heads together Houghton Academy’s Live Stream program was born.
The Live Stream class is held inside of the school’s classroom with some students in person and web-cameras stationed to see the teacher, whiteboard, and any additional demonstrative tools for the particular lesson. International students from China, Ethiopia, and Nigeria attend via live stream. Students are able to sign onto class, watch the lesson in real time and interact with their teacher and peers. This system can also work if a teacher is required to quarantine. The teacher is able to live stream from their home to the students in the classroom.
At Houghton Academy students are encouraged to take responsibility for their education. This value flows into the live stream class as well. Students set up the computer and web cameras prior to the start of class, they are also in charge of making sure each class is recorded for any student that cannot attend the live stream. For example, some international students due to athletic training schedules or time differences are not able to attend the EST time zone class. For these students the recorded lesson and teacher office hours provides continued access to Houghton Academy despite travel restrictions instead of enrolling in a local school. An Ethiopian student enrolled for the fall semester was unable to arrive due to travel restrictions. This student streamed in live and was able to build relationships with students and teachers. Now that she is on campus she is a step ahead because she is familiar with teachers and peers.
Through the Live Stream opportunity a Houghton Academy is open to more students. “We have added students from New York state and South Carolina. Students quarantining or for other reasons are taking advantage of it. It is a fantastic program” Mr. Retz said.
In addition to the Live Stream system Houghton Academy has launched Houghton Online. This began two years ago, Head of School Jonathan Retz started “building a plan and vision for this [when] last March  it became apparent there was a need. The timing was God. It was literally within a week from the board meeting to [being] shut down for virtual” explained Mr. Retz. Now in partnership with Oaks Christian Online, Houghton Academy can offer online courses to students. “I can automatically send students to existing classes” Mr. Retz said. With the partnership Houghton Academy students are connected to a large community of teachers and students, while enjoying the unique and individual education they love from Houghton Academy.
As the world changed and everyone adjusted, Houghton Academy found a way to adjust the delivery without losing their core values. The Academy program maintains their three-fold emphasis: head, heart, and hands. “We seek to supply core knowledge, allow knowledge to be informed by faith, and then encourage students to put their knowledge and faith into action. To that end, we offer more than academic coursework. We encourage our students to get involved in sports or music or drama or art or publishing as we believe that good education should encompass more than just books and information.” (Houghton Academy). Even in a virtual setting students are encouraged to take ownership of their education. Mr. Retz explained, “Students are interacting, doing everything they would do during a normal class, seeing each other's faces, writing on the whiteboard feature, etc.” By meeting in person and providing online resources for students that couldn’t attend class “Our kids have benefited tremendously. It’s been a blessing! Our teachers have done a phenomenal job.” Mr. Retz said.
In addition to the Live Stream and Houghton Online, the Academy has expanded their extracurriculars to include live streaming or online opportunities where applicable. Sports teams have continued to meet and practice when feasible. There is also a virtual Open House each week for parents, students, and anyone interested in learning more. These are available through their Facebook page and website (www.HoughtonAcademy.org).
In the future Houghton Academy would like to continue to expand their online education resources. Mr. Retz and the faculty are currently working with a group of schools based in India to create a global student exchange that would offer a dual diploma program for international students. Students would attend their local school and take online classes to receive a diploma from their school as well as Houghton Academy. This provides the students with an attractive transcript that will help them enter colleges and universities in the U.S.A. “We are anticipating a large number of students joining us in the fall semester. It is a really exciting opportunity to provide these students with Christian college prep. It is a groundbreaking opportunity for these kids.” Mr. Retz stated.
Despite many changes and cancelations around the world, Houghton Academy continues to be a beacon of light from Houghton, NY reaching the far corners of the globe. To learn more about Houghton Academy please visit their website at www.HoughtonAcademy.org or call their office at 585-567-8115.