Ukrainian students virtually attend St. Petersburg, Fla. school

Even from a world away, the school’s vice-principal in St. Petersburg is hearing tough stories of students relocating.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Some American teachers are getting a first-hand look at how the war is affecting Ukrainian and Russian children. 

The Aquinas International Academy is an online K-12 school based in St. Petersburg that has students all over the world. 

Much like the rest of the world, these teachers and administrators were told it was unlikely there would be a war and not to worry about it, but they did make some plans just in case and now they are glad they did. 

“Hi Liya, how are you?”  
“Hello, I am fine. I’m so happy to be here.”
“Good.” Professor Packer welcomes students to her online class. They log in from all over the world twice a week for lessons. 

Jennifer Williams oversees the school right from her home office in St. Petersburg. 

“We currently do about 400-500 live sessions a week right now. I have about 40 teachers and we’re in 20 countries and about 12 different time zones,” Williams said.

Initially, when the war started, they discussed putting the Ukrainian students on hold, but the students still wanted to try to keep up with their lessons.

“They’ve developed these incredible relationships with their teachers and they did, all but like two logged on and wanted to have class,” Williams said.

The school even did a special lesson for any of the students to take on mindfulness and handling stress.  

And Williams says the teachers are told to let the kids talk about how they are feeling, but to be careful how they react. 

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“What we sent the teachers right off the bat was a do and don’t. Do say this, don’t say that. And a lot of that was the political things. But the kids want to talk a little bit about that so we just listen. We don’t give any feedback when it comes to politics,” she said.

Many of the Ukrainian student’s parents are keeping in touch with the teachers letting them know how things are going. Some stories are very sad, but others are resilient.  

Williams said she spoke of one student who was fleeing to Bulgaria, but all along the way still managed to log into his live lessons from his phone. 

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