Utah Catholic Schools respond to the pandemic crisis with quality online education

Friday, Mar. 27, 2020
Utah Catholic Schools respond to the pandemic crisis with quality online education + Enlarge
Siblings who are in three different grades at The Madeleine Choir School do their work online as part of the remote learning imposed by the cornoavirus pandemic.
By Laura Vallejo
Intermountain Catholic

SALT LAKE CITY – As part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all 16 of the Utah Catholic Schools have implemented online courses. Originally the remote learning was to continue through March 31, but now the date has been extended until further notice. The schools will cease online instruction April 9-17 for their regularly scheduled Easter break.
On March 12, after meeting with Bishop Oscar A. Solis, school administrators and the diocesan leadership team, Superintendent Mark Longe informed the schools they were to start the remote instruction because, “at this time, [it is] in the best interest of our community in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19/Coronavirus,” he said.
Each of the Utah Catholic schools, which range from pre-school to high schools, has taken a unique approach to online instruction.
For example, The Madeleine Choir School is using Google Apps for Educators; the platform is being used by students in kindergarten through eighth grade, while the pre-kindergarten students use a platform designed specifically for childhood learning at home, said Megan Randazzo, principal.
If necessary, students may check out a Chromebook from the school so they can have access to a computer. The school streamlines daily messages; a weekly school newsletter as well as some COVID-19 specific emails also are sent. 
The online instruction provides both live and recorded sessions, and group discussions.
Despite the challenges, “we have a great majority of learners engaged in the remote learning,” Randazzo said. “This time has been trying and challenging in every way possible. Our community has a strong foundation of love, faith, and close relationships that have allowed for extended patience and problem-solving as we’ve responded to COVID-19 and government expectations.”
At J.E. Cosgriff Memorial Catholic School, faculty responded to the challenge by using multiple sources of communication and teaching.
“We are including personal phone calls, whole class live conversations,” Principal Betsy Hunt said.
Students turn in homework assignments through email.
These platforms show that the students and teachers miss each other, but “we have had many compliments from parents on the excellent resources going out from teachers and how students are in a home-schooling routine with much to learn and do,” she said.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School has been delivering instruction to the upper grades through the school’s website and through Microsoft 365. Instruction is livestreamed at least twice daily. In addition, teachers for the younger grades post lessons and instructions daily to the school website, said Christine Bergquist, principal.
To deliver curriculum and instruction, teachers are also using a variety of other online resources: YouTube, FaceTime, Class Dojo, Scholastic, Epic Books, Envision Math, Reflex Math, esparklearning and Pearson Realize, she added.
For their part, students are turning in the assignments via various online platforms. 
“We are very pleased with the response from our school community as they embrace this new learning platform,” said Bergquist, adding that “everyone understands that these first weeks need to be approached with flexibility and patience.”
Each morning at St. John the Baptist Elementary, Principal Nikki Ward uses Google Classroom to post a schoolwide prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance and announcements, and the teachers use the online platform to post daily and weekly assignments, Ward said.
The school also is using IXL, ReadyGen, MobyMax, and Rosetta Stone and communicating through email and social media platforms, Ward said. 
Judge Memorial Catholic High School has been using Canvas, Skyward and Gmail as their primary modes of communication, but teachers have been using various other platforms for instruction, said Louise Hendrickson, vice principal.
The school is also sending a weekly news bulletin from the principal, and Skyward emails.
“Our teachers have been utilizing online learning tools for years,” Hendrickson said. “This helped when they needed to move to complete online learning.” 
She added that “the counseling team is working with our students to offer academic and emotional support. They are holding mindfulness daily. They are also communicating with individual students [regarding] various needs.”
Clay Jones, principal of St. Joseph Catholic High School, said that the school has been using Canvas, Zoom and Google Classroom, as well as emails, newsletters and social media to communicate with the broader school community.
“In addition, we are also meeting live with students from 8-12 via Zoom, Canvas and Google Hangouts each day,” said Jones, adding that this is an effort to keep students engaged with their teachers. 
“Our teachers and community have handled this situation in stride; although not ideal, we have rallied to make the best of what we have been handed,” he said.
For Juan Diego Catholic High School, the goals for this online learning period include prioritizing the health and well-being of faculty, staff, students and the greater community, continuing to provide a great education for all students, maintaining the strong sense of community and delivering daily communication to the school community as a whole.
“We know that many families are facing hardships during this unusual time,” said Dr. Galey Colosimo, principal. “Providing our students a familiar, thoughtful learning experience will allow them to maintain some normalcy. Juan Diego is committed to continuing to provide our students a rigorous academic learning environment … even if it is a virtual one.”
The school also offers a daily morning message through the Good Morning JD YouTube channel, where faculty offer messages and topics for the students to reflect on, talk about and enjoy.

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