Catholic schools throughout Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties will continue with distance learning through the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, the Department of Catholic Schools (DCS) of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told parents, students, and staff May 9.
“After recent discussions with public health officials in the three counties we serve, public and private K-12 campuses will not be included in the initial stages of sector reopening. As a result, distance learning will continue through the end of the school year,” said Paul Escala, Senior Director and Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
Archdiocesan schools transitioned to distance learning on March 17, as schools throughout the state were urged to close in response to the threat of COVID-19. Teachers, staff and leaders of the 265 elementary and high schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles adjusted to ensure that the 73,000 students they serve never stopped learning.
Daily schedule and structure of distance learning vary by Catholic school and grade level, but many include morning check-ins online to record student attendance, online religion class with time to share, speak, reflect and pray, video lessons from teachers, and virtual classrooms where students can see and hear each other, as well as chat and text capabilities.
The Archdiocese has deployed an additional 20,000 connected iPads through its C3 partnership with Sprint which the entire family can use. Since 2016, the C3 IGNITE program with Sprint has deployed over 24,000 connected iPad devices to more than 132 schools in the Archdiocese. The devices are not only used as a classroom tool by students for their projects, research and homework, but can also be used in homes without internet access, as a mobile hotspot and/or a direct connected Sprint network device.
In a May 11 press release, the Archdiocese said that schools which have access to counselors are continuing to provide their services, and said that 40 Archdiocesan Catholic schools will continue to serve 16,000 meals per day for the poorest students in local communities -- no matter which school they attend.
Through a partnership with the LA84 Foundation, the Department of Catholic Schools will be distributing 7,500 pieces of sports equipment (soccer balls, basketballs, hula-hoops, jump ropes) for needy students to use to stay healthy at home.
As schools plan for the remainder of the academic year they are also preparing for graduation as pandemic distancing guidelines will change the way students are celebrated and recognized this year.
“Though the moment may not afford us the opportunity to physically come together, we are all committed to honoring our graduating students now and in-person when gatherings are permitted,” said Escala. As parents and educators, there is nothing we want more than for our students to celebrate the culmination of the school year together, particularly for our graduates. I commend our school communities for their creative plans to celebrate student achievements.”
Professional training is being provided by the Department of Catholic Schools for teachers and principals to prepare them for all aspects of distance learning including caring for students, and preparing for the upcoming academic year.
“Our leaders are preparing for the future when it is deemed safe for our students, faculty and staff reenter and reintegrate back into our campuses,” said Escala, who also announced the formation of a "Starting the School Year Smart joint task force" to offer guidance "based on best practices, adaptable to meet individual school circumstances and flexible to ensure compliance with state and/or local public health requirements.”