Notes from the Principal's Desk: Town Hall FAQs answered, Re-enrollment Deadline soon, and more


Catholic Schools Week Wrap-Up
It has been a busy Catholic Schools Week at Cathedral, but we have a few more events left. Today we celebrated our faith with a Chick-fil-A lunch for Cohort B students, a Mass for grades 2-4, and the students in cohort B taking a gallery walk to view the portraits of Jesus their peers created. On Friday, February 5, we celebrate our faculty and staff with a breakfast provided by CASPA and a dress-down day for students, faculty, and staff. Since cohort A students missed their student appreciation day, we have rescheduled this celebration to Tuesday, February 9th. Cohort A students will have a dress-down day and Chick-fil-A lunch provided by CASPA.
 
Town Hall Brief
I would like to thank all of the parents and community members who attended our virtual Town Hall events on Monday and Tuesday nights.  The sessions were very well attended, with over 100 people participating in the two events. For those who did not have a chance to attend- below a FAQ summarizes the discussions concerning the five days a week return to in-person instruction draft plan for students in grades 2-8. This draft plan is still in the iterative process after receiving input from the SCMOQ task force and faculty and staff.

Why do other private and Catholic schools have five days a week instruction but SCMOQ does not?

Answer: As I shared in previous communications, The School of the Cathedral inhabits a unique space in this academic corridor and the community whom we serve. Local private and independent schools have more access to financial resources than SCMOQ, which allows those schools to purchase additional resources and hire additional staff.

Similarly, the comparison of SCMOQ to other Catholic schools in the Archdiocese is not a true “apples to apples” comparison. We made the intentional decision not to use common areas such as the gym, library, and cafeteria to house large groups of students to hold class. The reason being that the school still wanted to offer specials like gym and allow the students to eat in the cafeteria. Additionally, compared to many other Catholic schools in the area, SCMOQ has a smaller population of 100% remote learners, which increases the numbers of students who are in-person and results in challenges in maintaining social distancing in the classrooms.

What does the overview of the five days a week return to school plan look like?

Answer: Essentially, we are examining ways to bring back students in lower grades as soon as possible, as they are the students who are impacted the most overall by remote learning. A staggered implementation will allow us to address any issues with the return plan rather than bringing back all the grades at once. We are evaluating space within the school to use as remote classrooms to accommodate students and adhere to the three-foot social distancing guidelines in the classroom we have been following all year. Additionally, we are looking at using Instructional Assistants, substitute teachers, and possibly volunteer parents to act as proctors in the remote classroom. We are investigating how we can revise the schedule to include more frequent interactions and time students spend in the classroom with a teacher. 

How will SCMOQ address and accommodate learning differences when students are lead by a proctor?

Answer: Ideally, the proctors in the remote classrooms will be instructional assistants and members of our regular substitute core. This will allow the Regina Plan team members to continue offering services to students with different learning needs. Parent volunteer proctors will receive training and job aids to help ensure students with accommodation plans are getting the services they need to be successful. It is possible that students in the Regina Plan will have the opportunity to have more time with the classroom teachers.

Will parents have the opportunity to select the "cohort hybrid model only” if Cathedral transitions to 5 days a week in-person learning?

Answer: This has yet to be determined. There are many pros and cons to allowing parents to select to remain in the current hybrid model and not have their child return to 5 days a week in-person instruction. As we work through these scenarios, we will update the community on a decision. The 100% remote learning option will still be available. Our goal is to develop a safe, sustainable, and successful plan for the students and teachers. The state may still require social distancing measures in schools at the start of the next school year. Our goal is to create a plan where all students are back five days a week at the beginning of next school year. We believe we can make that happen and can use the time we have this year to make sure we have the best plan in place.

How is the uncertainty around the new and significantly more contagious varieties being taken into consideration in any reopening plan?

Answer: The CDC’s latest data suggest that transmission of the virus does not appear to be taking place between students to teachers. The task force is keeping a watchful eye on the data of the new variants. My understanding is that at this time, the new virus variants, which appear more contagious, do not have a higher rate of severity of symptoms. However, the data set seems small in the U.S. right now, and we are continuing to evaluate the data and adjust the plan accordingly. 

In terms of 5 days a week, what will the other cohort of students do when the "in-person" cohort is attending Mass or having a specialty class? Will lunch and recess be with both cohorts together? 

Answer: Students who are in the remote classrooms will complete extension and enrichment activities. The specialty team teachers are also developing a pool of resources and a menu of options for the students to complete while the other class is in a specialty class. Students will likely be eating lunch in their cohort unless the weather permits us to eat outside. Students will be able to be together during recess when they are outside.

Do you expect as teachers get vaccinated, there will be the ability to separate the classes into smaller groups for learning?

Answer: Many of our teachers have already had the first round of vaccinations. In the coming weeks, most faculty and staff will receive the second dose of the vaccination. Teachers have already begun meeting with students in small groups when possible. We anticipate that with increased vaccinations, we will be able to conduct more small group activities.

I am concerned about the amount of screen time necessitated by virtual learning. Are you looking at ways to integrate more hands-on, screen-free (or screen-minimized, multimedia) projects and assignments?

Answer: Screen time has been one of the biggest challenges parents, students, and teachers have faced during the pandemic. When possible, we have been using manipulatives with the students. Furthermore, individual grade bands are exploring ways to offer more activities that do not require additional screen time.

With the proposed plan, will students need to bring their laptops that they have been using at home on virtual days to when they are in the remote classrooms?

Answer: Students should not need to bring in their own devices. We have devices on hand when needed. Students in the remote classroom will be able to see and hear the classroom teacher, and the teacher will be able to see and hear the students in the remote classroom.

African-American History Month Resources
This month is African-American History Month. This celebration was the creation of Carter G. Woodson and first began in February of 1926. All Americans are encouraged to recognize and celebrate the achievements and accomplishments of African-Americans, not just in February but all year long. Teachers will be using a wealth of resources to teach lessons focused on African-American history this month. Below are some resources you might find useful to continue the discussion and to learn at home.

African-American History Month Resources
The U.S. government's African-American History Month Homepage is loaded with information, event links, and more.
There are also some terrific online resources of the new National Museum of African American History & Culture located on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Here you can discover significant moments in African American history, culture, and community — as well as the people who helped shape our American history.
The History Channel's Black History page has a wealth of resources that are easy to access.
Biography.com has wonderful biographies of famous and notable African-Americans. 

Finally, we want to remind everyone that the re-enrollment deadline is Monday, February 15th.  As you might imagine, we have a large number of new applicants, so don’t delay in re-enrolling to secure your spot today! You can re-enroll here: Here are the instructions for re-enrollment.

God Bless,
Michael Wright