What did the 2020-2021 school year look like? - A Year of In-Person Learning...Throughout the Pandemic
“Unlike so many public schools, we were able to continue to meet in person,” says Barbara Dean, Principal of Holy Cross School.
Untold in that sentence were the countless hours spent, countless hours in preparation for what was to come; time spent outside of teaching, additional meetings, phone calls, logged into Zoom conferences, scouring the web, and speaking with mentors, advisors, and other experts on how they also plan to move forward.
Principal Dean doesn't speak about the importance of our school’s educational commitment to students without mentioning the role of the school to protect and keep our students safe. Shelley Henn, teacher and incoming principal for Holy Cross, echoes that sentiment. “Safety was as much of a priority to our students and our staff as education is.”
One of the most effective ways both Holy Cross and Our Lady of Hope were able to ensure student health and safety and preserve the in-person learning environment was to group students into cohorts, keeping them together as much as possible. Meals, recess time, and of course, classroom learning at both Holy Cross and Our Lady of Hope provided a safer and healthier space to diminish potential exposure and halt school-wide spread if there was a positive COVID test.
If a positive test was presented these small groups could shift to online learning and quarantine for 14 days without additional disruption to the remainder of our student body. The goal all along was to have as many children in our building actively being educated in as familiar a manner as possible each day.
Incoming Principal Henn of Holy Cross reflects, “I liked having students in their classrooms for meals. It was a perfect way to start the day because I knew that our kids had all eaten before jumping into learning.”
Families were also given the opportunity to keep their children home full-time for online instruction, challenging teachers to fine-tune their lessons for both in-person and virtual students. For example, Kerry Ysals, pre-K teacher at Our Lady of Hope; ensured that the online instruction option was still optimal for her students, building lesson plans producing at-home packets for these children weekly. “The simplest tasks become difficult over Zoom, like teaching proper holding of a pencil,” Miss Yslals remarked.
Another way we navigated the challenges of the pandemic was through our events. Choir concerts were one such example as they needed to be fully reimagined. Where music rehearsals could take place in-person during school hours with students in their smaller ensembles, concert attendance was hosted via Zoom and social media streams to adhere to health guidelines.
Students worked in our classrooms to record their performances, with Jennifer Weiman, the choir teacher at Holy Cross, managed all aspects of production. Her efforts in filming, editing, and streaming created a fantastic full virtual Christmas recital of our students for their families, friends, and our community that was shared in a safe manner. This school year has included many changes and challenges, for students, families, teachers, and administrators alike. The learning environment certainly has been different for all, and we are pleased to see how open to change our students and their families continue to be.
By Kendra O'Sullivan
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Though Dimitri Gonzales, an eighth grade student at Our Lady of Hope, has always recognized
the importance of Holy Thursday and the Stations of the Cross reenactment of Jesus’ walk to
Calvary, he also couldn’t help but envy the students who played the role of soldiers. He wanted
to play that role himself. This year, as an eighth grader, he had the chance. His mother,
Stephanie Gonzales, was proud.
Mrs. Gonzales is also deeply grateful that Dimitri, as well as his three brothers—Gabriel, Victor
and Julian—are receiving their education at Our Lady of Hope. According to Mrs. Gonzales,
“Dmitri had the confidence to ask for the part because of his teachers’ support and
encouragement. The teachers know my kids,” she continued. “They look out for them.” She
adds that the school also knows what she expects of her children. They reinforce the faith she
teaches at home.
Though teachers and staff are part of what makes Our Lady of Hope special, family is as well.
The Gonzales boys have not only had each other, the school has also been filled with cousins.
Some are still there; others have graduated. “It’s one big family,” says Victor. “I like knowing
everyone has my back,” agrees Gabriel. “Nobody wants to come to school to be bullied,” he
Fortunately, with the support of scholarships from Bright Futures Fund, the family has been able to send all four boys to Our Lady of Hope.