March 15 COVID-19 Update to School Leaders
“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.”
With several local public school districts announcing that they are suspending classes through late March and mid-April, I wanted to provide you all with an update to issues and questions we will face in the coming days.
As this is a developing situation, it is important that you understand your critical role as instructional leaders. The Catholic School Office will continue to assist you with navigating the educational, technical, and operational matters that will continue to surface. We are relying on your local instructional leadership now more than ever!
To serve as a reminder, here is the link to the general NYSED resource page for issues related to COVID-19. It is recommended that you check this page daily for updates: http://www.p12.nysed.gov/sss/schoolhealth/schoolhealthservices/coronavirus.html
The idea of uninterrupted, quality distance learning is not a simple concept and will likely evolve for whatever period of time schools are closed. I urge you to use tomorrow’s planning day as an opportunity to embrace this concept and set clear expectations for both faculty and staff. You can expect to receive an email later today with additional resources to support you.
It is important that our leaders and teachers understand that distance learning goes well beyond sending packets home for students to work on alone. As this develops into a situation where students are potentially home for an extended period of time, concepts like assessments, virtual “face to face” interactions among teachers and classmates, and utilizing tools like Google Classroom and Zoom are going to be necessary. It is important that we all fully embrace this this as we enter into day one of this journey.
Let us not take for granted the spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being of our students at this time. Plan a virtual mass or prayer service, grab and go breakfast and lunch programs, time for daily prayer and reflection, and opportunities for students to express the fears as just some ways to continue our mission to care for the whole child.
You can expect that the staff of the Catholic School Office in concert with diocesan officials are working around the clock in an effort to provide you with the support you will need over the next several weeks and possibly months.
A few updates on some of the more pressing matters that have surfaced:
- If your local public school district has announced its closure beyond this coming week, please hold off on making a final determination for your school. Let your community know that there is a great deal to consider and we will make this announcement as a system of schools this week. We are in uncharted territory and cannot simply defer to our local public school districts for this decision as we do in weather-related closings.
- Speaking of weather-related closings, please reassure all staff, but especially our hourly folks, if the workplace is closed, either through a governmental declaration or the determination by parish or diocesan leadership, the current policy concerning unexpected closings (like snow days) will take effect, that is, workers will be paid for their normally scheduled hours. Parish and schools can expect to receive a comprehensive memo this week concerning this and other pay and attendance matters. Those guidelines that will be released are subject to continuous review and modification based on anticipated State and Federal governmental responses and relief.
- Since we have moved our staff development day to Monday, we will no longer proceed with staff development on Friday, March 20. Therefore, Friday should be considered a day of virtual instruction for students.
- We are still planning to proceed with our diocesan principals meeting on Wednesday, March 18. Our plans and method of convening may change as we enter into the week, but either way it will be under an abbreviated agenda of the most relevant and pertinent topics.
I continue to pray for all of you and your respective school communities. It is important that we don't panic, understand that we can rely on each other, and continue to pray for a positive outcome to this challenging situation.