A new Christian online school organized by the Department of Education of the West Russian Union Conference (WRUC) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church opened its virtual doors on September 1, 2021.
The Istok school differs from traditional schools in that students never come to a building, and the school virtually comes to their home through computers and mobile devices. This type of training has its advantages: no need to waste time on the road, carry a heavy backpack, or be afraid of bad weather. The school consists of online classes from the Istok Christian School in Nizhny Novgorod, seven hours east of Moscow, through which the online classes are licensed and accredited.
At 9:00 a.m. on September 1, school deputy director Tatiana Bykova and headteacher of distance learning Natalia Kazel, together with host Gohar Budagyan and other participants, conducted a live broadcast to officially open the school year.
Everything in the opening program was similar to a real school, with the only difference being that presenters spoke not on the stage of the school meeting hall but from their homes. Among the attendees were WRUC president Ivan Velgosha, treasurer Vladimir Vachev, and Lev Bondarchuk, the initiator of the online project, who now serves as president of the Far Eastern Union of Churches (FEUC). School principal Elena Smirnova also addressed the audience with a welcoming speech. Dana Golovachev and Ruslan Larin spoke on behalf of the students’ parents.
With the participation of teachers, pastors, and students, the event turned out to be solemn and beautiful. A first-grader was in charge of ringing the bell to officially launch the school year.
Scores of students and their parents joined from across Russia, from Kaliningrad to the Far East. In the chat, they actively answered the presenters’ questions and gave “likes” to the performances. Immediately after the ceremony, students went to their virtual classrooms.
The school opened for grades 1 to 9 and currently has 53 students. Leaders explained that teachers have professional skills and a sincere desire to pass on knowledge and Christian values to the children.
“The main goal of the Christian school is, of course, to reveal the character of God and the person of Jesus,” they said. Every day the lessons begin with a “Lesson of Wisdom” by school chaplain Alexander Kuznetsov.
The school operates on a special platform designed for that purpose. Every teacher, parent, and student can access it. Classes will include no more than 10 students simultaneously to make activities more manageable, school officials explained. During a lesson, a teacher communicates with his or her students via video link, and they immediately answer or write on the online board to complete the tasks assigned. The platform allows each student to see their lesson schedule, keep a diary, receive homework in automatic mode, and record tardiness or absences.
The system has other benefits too. “Information about the students’ achievements or challenges goes directly to a student’s parents,” school officials explained. “All lessons are recorded, and each student has the opportunity to review a lesson he or she did not understand.”
Another feature of the school, leaders shared, is that the first week of classes is provided free of charge to everyone. If a student does not fit this educational format, he or she can opt to leave at no cost.
In addition to lessons, the school provides additional services, such as individual lessons and customized tutoring.
Leaders said they are praying for the success of this project. “[We hope] the school is filled with students, and the training may reveal the individual abilities of children as we help them find spiritual guidance in life,” they said.