Vincent Anch is the Executive Director of the Catholic Education Foundation.
Students stand in front of St. Benedict School in Atchison in 2019.
During this unprecedented time, health and finances are dominating our attention.
That’s to be understood. What’s being overlooked, to some degree, is the education of our children.
Many public schools have chosen to shut down part or most of their teaching for the school year. Some are offering a few hours per week of discussions but are not requiring attendance.
These students will miss part or all of their fourth-quarter learning opportunities. Some local school districts aren’t administering any tests or providing grades for the fourth quarter.
It is very different for our archdiocesan Catholic schools, where the learning hasn’t missed a beat.
Our Catholic schools are teaching the equivalent of a full curriculum, mostly via virtual learning. The schools are using web-based platforms like Google Classroom and Zoom to set up virtual classrooms.
Attendance is taken. Lectures are provided. Homework is assigned. Tests are being administered and grades are being given.
The learning will not stop. Just as important, our students are participating in faith formation activities, including daily prayer, religion classes, rosaries and online Masses. Many principals are providing a morning video message and prayer to start off each school day.
The challenge for our Catholic schools has never been about providing high quality, faith-filled education. The challenge is making a Catholic education affordable to all children, regardless of their families’ financial situation.
This has become especially difficult during this major crisis. Some of our school families have a parent that has recently lost a job or has gotten their shifts cut. They can no longer pay tuition and need help.
Many more will be adversely affected as the crisis continues. Meanwhile, parish collections have greatly diminished, which is limiting support for schools. Schools and families are turning to the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) for help.
CEF is stepping up to help families in need by providing special emergency assistance so their children can stay enrolled in school.
A record amount of requests for emergency assistance has hit CEF since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Our new challenge will be in meeting the increased demands that are expected as this crisis continues.
This year’s spring CEF Scholarship Fund drive will be used to provide scholarships for students in need for next school year, but will also help to provide emergency assistance grants to help families throughout the remainder of this school year.
We are so proud of how our principals, teachers, students and parents have stepped up during this crisis to set the educational and spiritual needs of our youth as a priority.
We are also eternally grateful for all of the generous supporters who have made it possible for CEF to serve over 1,400 children so far this year.
These children are praying daily for us to get past this worldwide crisis.
They are our best hope to meet the challenges of today and the future.
This story was originally published in The Leaven.