Amidst a storm of school closures, decrees of limited public gatherings, and toilet paper shortages, a local school community came together and responded to bring stability and consistency to its students and families.
On Monday, March 16, after Spring Break ended and they announced another week of school closure, the 34 teachers, cafeteria workers, administrative personnel, maintenance director and other faculty and staff gathered to immediately begin implementation of a distance learning plan to ensure that their 194 students were safe, healthy and learning continuously.
“In a time when so much is unknown, and frankly, very scary, our children needed their school family to show them that all their teachers were still here – just as we have been every other day previously – to walk alongside them through the challenges life brings,” said Principal Heidi Altman, “and so we showed up together to prepare a distance learning plan that would continue to teach the heart, mind, soul and body of each child. In person or online, during a global pandemic or in perfect health, this has been the mission of St. Mary’s Catholic School for 123 years. We weren’t about to quit now.”
With communication to families and support from technology director Daniel Yezak and technology assistant Alan McConnell, St. Mary’s teachers and staff created lesson plans utilizing email, Google Suite, RazKids, IXL Learning and all their existing textbooks and novels to continue delivery of their classical Christ-centered curriculum. After 24 hours of preparation, the program went live to families and students by the next afternoon.
Teachers kicked off the distance learning program together by sending out a video as they led morning prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance.
“We love and miss you all, and wish you could be here with us,” the teachers told their students, “and so we invite you to join in with us as we start our day together, like we always do.”
Parents responded by sending in pictures of their children at home following along with teachers and smiling all the way.
On Wednesday, St. Mary’s scheduled times for students and their parents to pick up their books and supplies from classrooms, limiting gatherings to five people at a time and observing all health precautions and social distancing. With staff wearing their St. Mary’s Rams Spirit Shirts, families gained a reassurance that the school community was strong and secure.
“I feel so at peace with everything,” one parent commented. “Our teachers have done great in such a short time frame, and our family is excited to get going with distance learning.”
St. Mary’s Catholic School plans to implement their distance learning program until Monday, April 6, while the school campus is closed to students and parents. The faculty will continue to send out daily personal videos and lessons to maintain close relationships with students and will even host fun special dress days. Friday was Pajama Day for everyone, including the staff.
Parents are asked to check email, the school website and Facebook page “St. Mary’s Catholic School Taylor” for updates and assignments during the distance learning program. Teachers will continue to work in close partnership with parents to guide student learning. St. Mary’s Catholic School is prepared to continue delivering their curriculum through distance learning for the remainder of the school year, if necessary.