There is a buzz in the school building as teachers and staff continue preparations for the 2020-21 school year. Admittedly, it is a different buzz this year. Teachers are screened daily as they enter the building. They don masks and physically distance as they collaborate with co-teachers and administration. We also continue to meet in the virtual space as this will be the reality for our remote start to the school year. While the hope and anticipation of a new school year are marked by a strong undercurrent of pandemic reality, the mission of the parish school remains steadfast. Our commitment to inspiring moral development, academic excellence, and the courage to act for the common good guides our planning for delivering instruction, be it at home or in the classroom.
As I shared with you last week, this year’s school theme is: Together We Can: Act with Justice, Love with Mercy, Walk Humbly with God. It is in this unified spirit we gather our strength to take on a school year like no other. The St. John community always rises to the occasion. The power of our community is our connectedness, and we will be relying on each other in new and familiar ways to support the theme and mission of the school. Thank you, educators, and thank you, parents, for working together for the common good. This year will demand our best efforts; greater space and patience will be needed for collective problem-solving. Grace will be required and granted as we turn each new corner and confront new obstacles in our daily lives. We can do this, St. John.
I want to thank those of you who pre-registered and attended today’s virtual Town Hall, hosted by our Parent Association. I am grateful to our PA co-chairs, Tricia Kane-Yi and Allan Quiaoit, for the hours of preparation they volunteered to hosting the event. If you were unable to attend, the school will make available a recording or transcript of the meeting. The questions submitted were wide-ranging in scope and specificity. Combined with queries from our summer surveys, submissions were analyzed and common themes for discussion were identified and served as a framework for our discussion. Several of the submitted questions surrounded the return to in-person learning and requested information at the granular level on policies and procedures. A foundational plan for in-person instruction was constructed over the course of the summer by our Re-Opening Task Force. Once we begin to approach the guidelines set to allow for in-person learning, we will share the plan with you. As we are starting the school year remotely, the majority of our talking points in the Town Hall discussion this evening were directed toward a remote start. The PA will host a preschool virtual Town Hall next week, and once we feel a return to in-person school is imminent, an additional virtual gathering will be organized. We will, of course, continue to communicate with you via NewsViews.
September 1 is on the horizon, and our school orientation activities and events have been re-engineered for both staff and students. Our faculty in-service will begin next week. Our first official gathering for all students and families will be a virtual Mass on Tuesday, September 1. Time TBA. All school Masses will be streamed on Parish Facebook Page.
As shared last week – with a remote start to the school year – it is vital we provide an opportunity for students and teachers to meet in-person to start the year, set expectations, and get to know one another. To that end, September 1-4 will be an orientation week for all parents and students, both new and returning. Beginning the afternoon of 9/1 and stretching through Friday, 9/4, teachers, PreK-8, will be hosting one-on-one, physically distanced, Meet-‘n-Greets with individual students and their families. Tents will be set up outside on school grounds for teachers to meet with students/families, distribute supplies and computer devices if needed, and introduce parents to digital learning platforms.
I mentioned last week in NewsViews that teachers were pivoting in their planning and directing all energies to preparing classes for a remote start this fall. Work continues on the remote plan and a draft is being made available today. September 8 will mark our first official day of remote learning. The newly branded Remote Learning Plan (RLP) for 2020-2021 will include enhancements based on the results from the June and August surveys and provide students with regular access to the teachers for synchronous learning. The educational portion of the synchronous classes will align with OCS/OSPI curricular recommendations for learning and will take into account the limits of sustained attention on screens of our young learners. View the plan here.
Attendance by students in the RLP is required. Attendance will be taken as a part of the first morning meeting, and teachers will report to the school office. Attendance must be reported daily to maintain accurate records and institutional integrity. Protocols for reporting illness, appointments, and unexcused absences remain the same. Parents will still be required to communicate illness and appointments that interrupt the student’s day. Please continue to call the school office or email attendance and your child’s homeroom teacher. We ask that you continue to avoid scheduling appointments during the school day if at all possible.
Yes, this summer has been challenging, and the year ahead will not be the easiest, but together we can move forward. Re-read this newsletter to see how often parents, teachers, PA, and administration put that theme into action. We planned, listened, prayed, and practiced: Together We Can!
Next week’s NewsViews will include information on staffing and new hires for the 2020-21 school year. Class assignments will also be posted late next week. Be well, stay safe, and wear a mask.