Prospective Students Zoom Into BLS During Virtual Tours

Recently, Boston Latin School has hosted virtual tours for prospective students and families to learn more about the school.

With the pandemic still preventing in-person gatherings, they hold the tours over Zoom. Welcoming remarks from the administration kick off each tour, followed by student tour guide introductions. Next, they assign breakout rooms based on grade and language accommodations. In their breakout rooms, tour guides present a slideshow with pictures of important parts of the building. At the end of the tour, the remaining questions are answered in the main room.

Student coordinator and fourth-year tour guide Oasis Ramirez Mateo (I) explains that despite not being able to show the building physically, each tour guide can personalize their slideshow with anecdotes about the school building to make the BLS atmosphere come to life.

“Everyone has their own stories. Everyone is as dynamic as the school. [Students] are actually engaged and they want to hear [the tour guides’] experiences,” says Ramirez Mateo.

However, the virtual format presents some challenges. For example, if tours were in person, attendees would be able to move around the space as they split into groups, choosing tour guides based on preference, grade and language. In the virtual realm, hosts must assign attendees to breakout rooms while keeping in mind the various accommodations. Some members of the same family are on different devices, so hosts must try to keep families together.

Virtual tours, like remote learning, are not a perfect substitute. Lack of face-to-face interaction, internet issues, and the inability to set foot in the school building are all drawbacks to the tour experience.

Emily Schell (I), who has been a student tour guide for three years, explains, “You don’t have the same personal connection. Sometimes people don’t turn on their cameras, so you can’t see those reactions […] If I’m going past the science department and I give a basic overview but I see that some of the kids are more interested in it, I’ll go more into depth about it, […] whereas here, you kind of just have to play it by ear and hope that they ask the questions that they want to.”

Despite the challenges, the virtual format has a few benefits. For instance, it improves access to tours and there is more of a relaxed atmosphere from the comfort of their homes.

Assistant to the Head of School, Ms. Martha Pierce, organizes these tours. She remarks, “It’s allowed people who wouldn’t be able to get to campus for whatever reason to appreciate the school. I think it provides some possible consistency in terms of what’s gone over in the tour, because everybody has their own spin, but they all have the same slides […] Up until now, they’ve been small groups […] so I think that’s been helpful.”

The virtual tours have received positive feedback so far, according to Ms. Pierce. 

Reflecting on her past four years as a tour guide, Ramirez Mateo concludes, “Something I miss about in-person tours is that I could scout for potential BLS students and see how diverse […] the next generation is.”

Tours are being held through February 28. Students from fifth to eighth grade, and their families, may sign up to attend. Registration can be found here on the BLS website.