Good News Blitz: Week 3!
Leading through Uncertainty: Local Catholic schools set the standard for a safe re-opening
With the 2020-2021 school year approaching, Catholic schools are responding innovatively to the new, COVID-centric reality. One Catholic Schools Foundation (CSF) sponsored school, Cardinal Spellman High School (Spellman) in Brockton, is leading the charge for safe, sustainable, and effective reopening practices for the upcoming year.
According to Spellman President Dan Hodes, the school’s priority for its re-entry plan was to maintain safety for students, faculty, and staff, while continuing to provide the highest possible level of learning. The school’s strategy to address this priority has been, first and foremost, to continue adhering to the guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). In addition, Spellman continues to host bi-weekly Zoom meetings, a strategy it began in April, for fellow Catholic school leaders to share innovative ideas centered around a safe reopening.
“Educating ourselves on the best practices locally, nationally, and internationally, and marrying all of that information with the guidance we’ve received from DESE, gives us a great starting point for making decisions with our overarching principle of student health and student learning,” explained President Dan Hodes.
In the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, Spellman organized a steering committee to manage the overall direction of their response. Through this committee, Spellman, like many Catholic schools, -planned three possible outcomes for the upcoming year: full re-entry, hybrid re-entry, or a fully virtual re-entry. Recognizing that significant changes to their day-to-day were inevitable, Spellman quickly got to work measuring each classroom for safe distancing, and organized a team that has developed technology to allow teachers simultaneously to instruct students both in-person and online.
In a recent study of students’ families, 81% of Spellman parents said they wanted their children back in school this year. As part of its response, administrators and teachers will prepare for 3- and 6-feet socially distanced classrooms, one-way hallways, plexiglass dividers, and an isolation room for school nurses. Schools are also utilizing Personal Protection Equipment funding to help ensure their re-opening plans adhere to safety guidelines.
“The challenges for schools continue to lie ahead of us,” said Hodes. “There is still a lot to do but we feel as if we’ve got a good head start and we will be moving forward with a plan that our parents love, our students love, and that our faculty is excited to participate in.”
“During this extremely difficult time, Spellman continues to amaze me,” said a Spellman parent. “The support from faculty and administration has been extraordinary. Now more than ever our family is extremely blessed and grateful to be a part of the Spellman family.”
Enrollment has remained steady at schools across the Archdiocese of Boston, with some schools expecting to see an uptick as families seek schools that have successfully responded to the COVID crisis and are well prepared for the future. Spellman has an increase of 13% as enrollment has risen from around 440 last year to 490 for the upcoming year. CSF currently supports 90 students at Spellman with an average award of $4,500.
CSF, a non-profit that provides over 4,000 scholarships per year for low-income students to attend Catholic schools in the greater Boston area, has committed to immediately allocating an additional $500K in scholarships for families who need help with tuition for the next school year. CSF will also offer webinars and one-on-one consulting with experts this summer to aid schools in strengthening enrollment, marketing, and admissions.
Families are encouraged to reach out to schools in the Archdiocese of Boston to learn more about their individual response to the COVID pandemic.