Students at St. Patrick's Catholic School in Kansas City, Kansas gather for a reading lesson with Principal Tim Conrad in early March.
While many elementary schools are struggling through remote classroom instruction, Catholic schools in our Archdiocese are determined to keep rigorous education and faith development at the forefront of the 4th academic quarter.
“We’re looking at this as a great opportunity,” said principal Tim Conrad of St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Kansas City, Kansas in a recent video he shared with the school community.
Like many of our Catholic schools, St. Pat’s faculty spent what would have been their spring break hard at work developing the continuous learning plan they’ve put in place since Governor Kelly’s March 17th announcement. From printed packets, to Zoom classes, to school-provided iPads and ChromeBooks for students, the education has continued. But Conrad explained the virtual support doesn’t stop at the curriculum.
“This is a chance for us to do two things,” said Conrad. “One, become truly innovative. And two, to hone our communication skills.”
Those skills have included a lot of listening. Over the past month, St. Pat’s has continuously analyzed the needs of students and families and adapted its programming accordingly. From a curbside sack lunch program, to video-based technology training for parents and guardians, to daily communication from teachers on everything from student progress to organizational tips, the team is working to support students and their families holistically.
“We have a structured daily schedule including specials and religion each day,” said Conrad. “We’ve surveyed our students to monitor their progress, social-emotional well being and to learn from them how to continue improving our delivery.”
The survey results showed that students are applying themselves, learning new organizational skills, and are enjoying seeing their classmates and teachers regularly.
“Echoed throughout the surveys was how helpful and prepared the teachers are, and it’s a big statement when students feel good about the teachers and what’s being shared with them.”
“Our success over the past few weeks speaks to the quality of teachers we have. I can’t praise their efforts enough.”
Like many other Catholic schools throughout the area, St. Pat’s plans to utilize Title 1 funds and support through the federal CARES Act as they look ahead towards an uncertain future. St. Pat’s will use the funds to initiate a free, virtual summer school program this June for students who fall below grade level.
Many St. Pat’s families are among those throughout the Archdiocese who have received emergency funding from CEF in response to the economic impact of the pandemic.
“The bottom line is how can we make this great for the kids,” said Conrad, sharing the sentiments expressed by teachers and faculty at a recent staff meeting. “We miss the hugs, the high gives, the first bumps, praying together, learning together, eating lunch together, we miss the whole thing. But we’ll get back to normal.”
The school is preparing modified celebrations for graduating 8th graders, along with the future celebrations of Confirmations and First Communions. And with fall enrollment already up, they’re looking forward to continuing the momentum and innovation into next year.
“We’re looking at offering a breakfast program, and we’re implementing a STEM gateway curriculum for our middle school students, including robotics design and modeling, medical detectives, and other core pieces. We’re placing a big emphasis on career awareness and development, and we’re hoping to expand summer school to both remedial and enrichment programming next summer.”
According to Conrad, there are many lessons that can be learned during this crisis that center around “hope” - the school’s recent “virtue of the week”.
“We’ve got to continue working together,” said Conrad. “This is new for everybody, and we’re all just trying to bond together to do what’s best. And so far, we’re doing even better than anticipated.”