From Principal Tom Korta:
I want to clarify the message about extending our closure indefinitely. I hope by now you realize that we are not stopping our expectation that students continue learning, we are just changing our instruction from face-to-face teaching to a distance learning format. We will not resume classes prior to April 3, and sometime during the week of March 30 you will get an update from me (from the diocesan education office, of course).
Here are some quick things to know about distance learning:
1. We are well aware of the issues going on with Powerschool Learning (PSL). Even this afternoon, they asked teachers to temporarily stop posting content. If your student is having trouble access Powerschool, or frustration using it, you might click on this link https://status.powerschool.com/ to get updates on their status.
2. Today I spent an hour with our faculty addressing some of the questions and concerns that have come up from students trying to use PSL. They are aware of the issues with the technology, and will be very forgiving with deadlines. I told our teachers to use the deadlines as a pacing guide, and not an absolute.
3. Many teachers report that most, if not all, students are doing great about checking in and getting their work done. Please pass along my gratitude and admiration.
4. Communication is a key piece to successful distance learning. In Office 365 (which EVERY student has access to through our home page, under “students” and “key links” at the bottom), students have access to Microsoft Outlook. Please encourage your son or daughter to start checking Outlook DAILY. If your student is used to using some other email application, he or she can have all messages that are addressed to Outlook auto forward to a different account; we will be posting directions on how to do that soon.
5. We are pursuing the use of teleconferencing as a means of students getting academic support. We are working to put together a schedule of sessions when a teacher will be available to answer questions that students might have. I will push that schedule out when it is complete. It will include daytime and evening options.
6. We are also pursuing avenues for students to request technical support. We hope to have something in place by the end of the day tomorrow.
7. Grades are a big question. I have asked our teachers to consider assessment from the standpoint of “feedback on learning” and less about “assigning a grade.” I hope you can support that message at home. Distance learning requires a fair amount of trust between the teacher and students regarding assessments, and changes the focus from “getting an A” to making sure the student truly understands the material. We will continue to enter grades in the gradebook, but we have no idea how we will use those grades when determining a semester grade.
Our BOLT committee announced today that they are postponing BOLT until Saturday, May 30. It was originally scheduled for April 25th.
I have had questions about senior service hours. In general the service requirement is an attempt to instill in our kids the understanding that service to others is central to our call as Christians. Especially in these times, we need to be ready to jump to others’ aid as the need arises. Given the present circumstances, if you as a parent feel that it is best for your child to stay home, or if the place you had planned to do service is no longer open or accepting volunteers, please know that we will understand. If/when we get back to school, we will see how much time is left and work with students to come up with a fair plan to complete their hours.
I am told there are rumors out there about canceling various events. I can say with all honesty that there has been NO conversation about canceling graduation, and limited discussion about canceling Prom, the Senior/Parent Breakfast, and other such milestones. I think it is fair to say that these celebrations are at risk, and we may have to get creative about how we celebrate the end of the year for our seniors. If you are talking with your senior about these things, please assure them that no decision has been made, acknowledge their sadness about the potential to end their high school career on a rather sour note, and if possible, focus their attention on the heroic sacrifice they are making for the good of the most physically vulnerable among us—family members, friends, and other community members.
Pope Francis is asking for all to pray the rosary today. He prayed at 9 pm Rome time, which was 3 pm central time. Since God works outside of time anyway, if you haven’t yet prayed a rosary today, you might join Catholics around the world in begging Our Lady to intercede to her Son on behalf of all of those who are impacted by this pandemic and pray for a speedy end.
I think this is where I will stop for today. I have more to share, but am trying to spread it out (might not seem that way to you). Please hang in there. Tell your kids we miss them, love them and are praying for them, and look forward to seeing them again when this all blows past.