By Leisa Schulz
We are “Leading with Hope” as we open the 2020-21 school year. While the start of every school year is marked with anticipation, excitement and a bit of apprehension, the opening for 2020-21 is unparalleled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Archbishop Kurtz, in his “Hope in the Lord” The Record column from August 13 said, “Hope is the theological virtue that assures us of God’s presence and power in good times and in bad.”
Our spring and summer startled us with a loss of normalcy, uncertainty and fear as we remained healthy at home and transitioned to remote learning. We relied on God, on one another and our communities—families, schools and parishes—for strength and support. We know that we are part of something larger, and it takes all of us, working together, to accomplish what God intends for us.
We planned for two weeks of classes based on inclement weather plans and quickly pivoted after spring break to provide six additional weeks of focused lessons, check-ins with students to see how they were doing and worship opportunities with live-streamed prayers and school liturgies. In the midst of such great change, our teachers and principals provided stability while innovating to meet the changing conditions our students were experiencing.
Our school year begins with new, necessary and enhanced protocols to protect the health and well-being of our students, teachers, staff and administrators. We have all become very familiar with daily health screenings, masks, social distancing and hygiene practices. Again, it will take all of us working together, supporting and practicing these protocols inside and outside of our Catholic schools to mitigate the spread of the virus. I urge everyone’s cooperation with these practices.
All of our schools will also be focusing on the areas of social emotional learning, curriculum to meet student needs and remote learning. We embrace and recognize the gifts our teachers bring to the classroom every day delivering quality instruction despite the challenges.
Our counselors are providing teachers with activities to support the social and emotional needs of our students. The foundation of this work is built on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, recognizing the human dignity of every person and our need to respond as Catholic educators to the needs our students.
Using a defined protocol, educators have built their re-entry curriculum to include the essentials from last year that need more time so that we are able to shore up the gaps, especially in math. Additionally, the fall MAP assessment data will guide our work with students so we can differentiate and meet students where they are in their learning.
Every teacher and every school has analyzed its pivot to remote learning. Based on that analysis, teachers will work to improve their ability to deliver on-line instruction should that be necessary in the future.
We are privileged in Catholic schools to share our faith with students in the way Jesus shared his faith with his disciples. Let us also echo Archbishop Kurtz’s words that “. . .the virtue of hope is that gift from God that we need to receive, deepen and nourish even more in these challenging days.”
As our school year begins, I ask you to join us in daily prayer for our priests, deacons, religious, presidents, principals, teachers, support staff, students, families and parishioners.