Schools transition to remote learning

Caroline and Joshua Able, St. Agnes School students, rode their bikes at Bernheim Forest after Kentucky schools closed to stop the spread of COVID-19. (Record Photo by Jessica Able)

With students out of school through at least Spring Break in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19, most Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville are engaged in some type of distance learning.

Some kids have cleared dining room tables to make way for remote learning at home. Others have perched with laptops at kitchen countertops to complete online lessons. Still, other families are enjoying hikes, bike rides and walking the dog to incorporate physical education.

While students will be learning at home for the foreseeable future, schools and administrators will be there to support families, said Tosh Scheps, curriculum and instruction coordinator for the Catholic Schools Office.

Distance learning, Scheps said, can take a number of forms and will vary from school to school.

“In one sense, distance learning is a continuation of what is going on in a classroom but work for kids to complete at home either by themselves or with the help of a parent,” he said.

While schools have implemented distance learning days in the past for inclement weather, remote learning over a two-week period requires a completely different process..

One of the goals of the Office of Catholic Schools during this time is to provide support and resources for educators, Scheps said. Many online learning resources are providing lessons and curriculum free of charge during this suggested time of self-quarantine.

“We are trying to curate that list of different programs and resources out there being offered to educators and parents,” he said.

Wendy Sims, principal of St. Margaret Mary School, said the school is adapting its snow-day protocol to an online platform hosted through Google.

“Lessons for core subjects as well as special areas have been uploaded,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s not optimal or the best way to teach but it checks the boxes.”

Junior kindergarten and kindergarten students were sent home with packets of worksheets and lessons. Students in all other grades will complete their work online.

“Teachers will be available to them for four hours each morning to answer emails,” Sims said.

Some middle school teachers will also create videos to address tougher math concepts, she said.

Scheps said the timing and frequency of online learning days will be determined by principals in individual schools.

Many schools have built “snow days” into their schedules, usually, about five full days, which allows them to have days off — without distance learning or extra days at the end of the year.

“Because of that, our offices have let schools know that each one of them is able to make their own decisions internally about how they want to divvy up the next two weeks in terms of built-in ‘snow days’ and distance learning days,” he said.

While there may be schools that have distance learning every day for the next two weeks, he said, others may have class every other day, or just this week. This may produce less stress on students and teachers, he said.

Most Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville will be closed through April 3. Some Catholic schools outside Jefferson County will observe different closure dates in accordance with their local public school schedule.

The closure was announced March 12 by Superintendent of Schools Leisa Schulz after a recommendation by Governor Andy Beshear. Beshear ordered the shut down of all K-12 statewide as one of several preventive measures to address the COVID-19 outbreak.

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