While every public school in the state closed its doors Wednesday to students for eight days while staff plans for distance learning, one Duluth private school was ahead of the curve.

Marshall School has been practicing "e-learning" for about a year now as a way to continue instruction during snow days. The school moved to remote instruction Wednesday due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tony Lockhart, director of information technology at Marshall, said being able to test e-learning allowed the school to explore what worked and what didn’t.

“What we learned is that our learning management system — the tool teachers use in the classroom that combines their grade book and a place to post and collect assignments online and to post materials that the students are going to work with — is really important to leverage for online learning,” he said.

Marshall uses a learning management system called Schoology, which Lockhart said teachers and students have become adept at using. Though Marshall has been testing e-learning for over a year, Lockhart said the school started planning for the possibility of having in-school instruction canceled over a week ago.

“We spent some time early last week talking about the possibility of school being postponed and getting feedback from teachers,” Lockhart said. “Then they actually spent some time at the end of last week practicing the tools they would have to use more frequently, such as live-streaming, video conferencing and screen recording.”

Marshall is a fourth-through-12th grade school that gives devices to all of its students. The devices are used as a tool in the classroom on a regular basis, but not exclusively, Lockhart said, until now.

“Every grade level is going to have e-learning, but each group of teachers is deciding to do it a little differently,” he said. “So, fourth, fifth and sixth grades have a little more, very thoughtfully, streamlined and simplified way of talking with their kids and any activities they are having their kids doing.”

Lockhart said the first day of e-learning Wednesday went smoothly, based on the feedback from teachers and students. He said Schoology did have some intermittent issues at the start of the day, but they were resolved quickly.

“Even with that little hiccup, it didn’t seem to throw anybody,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart said many teachers even went as far as recording introductions for their lessons, which the students found very helpful.

“Overall, I think it was a success and it’s really exciting,” he said.