As of today all schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville are back in session.
Some children were welcomed into new classrooms, such as the ones at St. Gabriel the Archangel Preschool, at 5503 Bardstown Rd.
St. Gabriel unveiled the new and bigger preschool — which now accommodates 106 students — during a school-wide open house Aug. 11.
The preschool has four classrooms with child-sized bathrooms and hand-washing stations and an upgraded sensory room.
“The new facility is a reflection of our continued commitment to see our children rise above and soar beyond,” said Father John A. Schwartzlose, pastor of St. Gabriel Church. “It’s an investment in our future as a parish and a school committed to excellence in education.”
Students at St. Gabriel returned to classes Aug 13.
Leisa Schulz, superintendent of Archdiocese of Louisville schools, said the school year started right on time.
Though a few months remain before winter weather steps in, Catholic schools already have a plan to deal with snow days, said Schulz.
Alternative Instruction Days — a program which was put into place last year — allows students to do their class work at home, some of it online, on days when bad weather prevents travel. Several schools made use of the Alternative Instruction Days last school year, said Schulz.
This is an archdiocesan-wide program, she explained, but each school makes the decision whether or not to implement it. Schools can use up to five such days.
Catholic schools will have the program available again this year in the event of icy weather, Schulz said. She noted that educators attended training sessions earlier this year to learn more about offering these alternative school days, so she expects more schools to take advantage of it this year.
“We received much positive feedback from schools and parents last year about the program,” she said. She added that the program is “an excellent use of technology.” “The integration of technology within schools has made this possible.”
Donna Brown, technology curriculum consultant for the archdiocese, said technology is changing the way children in Catholic schools learn. In some schools, she said, the “need to transfer paper is a thing of the past.”
Brown said that the middle schools are now one-to-one — meaning every student has access to a device, such as an iPad or Google Chromebook, all day long. Saint Xavier and Mercy Academy also have one-to-one technology, both using iPads. The goal, said Brown, is to get every school to that point.
“The exciting part is they are using it well and learning is being reinforced,” she said.
Beyond the use of tablets, the use of technology is leading the way in other areas as well, Brown said, noting Mercy Academy’s new STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum.
The girls’ high school on Fegenbush Lane opened a STEM Innovation Center on their campus Aug. 4 — a space for students to pursue learning in these four disciplines.
Some of the technological advances that help students get the most out of their education, is made possible by grants, said Mary Beth Bowling, assistant superintendent.
Her office has received a grant of more than $50,000 from the WHAS Crusade for Children. The grant, Bowling said, will be used to purchase products to help with early childhood screening and materials to help children in certain subject areas, such as reading.
Part of that money will also purchase equipment, such as TeachLogic sound systems which will help children with auditory difficulties, she said.
Bowling said there’s a “lot of excitement and energy” at this time of the year. “I see our schools poised to continue to find the best practices that will enhance what they’ve been doing.”
Thanks to the renewal of a Kosair Charities grant, all elementary schools will be offering the “Speak Up Be Safe” program again this year. The abuse prevention curriculum was first implemented archdiocesan-wide last year.
The grant, Schulz said, allows schools to purchase materials for the curriculum and offer professional training to teachers and counselors. The program is offered to students in first through sixth grades and is taught by either the school counselor or the classroom teacher.
“It’s an important part of what we do and we’re proud of it,” Schulz said.
Another important occurrence in education this year is the reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was approved by Congress last month.
It will be good for education, overall, according to the United States bishops.
Catholic News Service reported that the Senate’s reauthorization measure, the “Every Child Achieves Act,” and House of Representative’s version, the “Student Success Act,” was welcomed by Archbishop George J. Lucas, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Catholic Education.
“The members of Congress, by passing legislation to reauthorize the education act have put us one step closer towards restoring equity and ensuring that all children are afforded the educational services, benefits and opportunity our government has to offer, regardless of the type of school they attend,” said Archbishop Lucas of Omaha, Neb.
Schulz said that the reauthorization of the education act will have an effect on schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“There are several facets of the act that contain provisions for children in private schools,” she said.
The act includes provisions to promote professional learning for teachers and additional instruction for children who need help with math and reading, she said. It also provides for services to students who require instruction in English as a second language.
She added that all the details about how this act, which takes effect during the 2015-2016 school year, will affect schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville are still not known.