April 6, 2020
May this weekly correspondence at the beginning of Holy Week and on a Saints Black and Gold Monday find you and your families doing the best that you can. We have an opportunity during Holy Week to focus less upon the daily trials created by the coronavirus pandemic and more upon the Sacred Paschal Triduum – the three holiest days of the year where we recall the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The Easter holidays are listed on the school calendar as April 9, 10 and 13. Thus, at-home learning will be suspended for those three days. With the stay-at-home order still in effect during that time, some may be looking for things to do during these school holidays. With Catholic identity as a priority, I share the following resources for those who may be interested in a “Holy Week Experience at Home.” (CBS is officially registered with The Pastoral Center in order to share the following links.)
Holy Thursday - https://holyweek.pastoral.center/holy_thursday
Good Friday - https://holyweek.pastoral.center/good_friday
Easter Sunday - https://holyweek.pastoral.center/easter_sunday
When we left school on Friday, March 13, the initial plan was to return to school on Tuesday, April 14. As everyone knows, that has been extended to Thursday, April 30. Administratively, we remain hopeful that school will resume on Friday, May 1. Indeed, much of our conversation and planning is related to a May 1 return date. But some of our conversation is also related to the possibility that we may not return to school at all for the 2019-2020 school year. Part of that conversation includes brainstorming new plans for graduations and end-of-year ceremonies. No details have been decided at this point. But I do want parents to know that school leaders are already talking about these events should some modifications of them become necessary.
Thank you for your participation in the recent surveys. The feedback was plentiful and varied. Two main themes resonated in the responses. First and foremost, the students love it when their teachers are personally involved in instruction and correspondence. Furthermore, the students miss those teachers with whom they have not been able to connect. In response, the campus principals are requiring the teachers to deliver more of themselves to their students - if they are not already doing so. The principals will elaborate on these requirements in their own messages to you later this week. Second, parents appreciate organized, consistent and timely delivery of assignments to students. Middle school students like this too. Thus, the principals are working with the teachers to improve ways to disseminate information, instruction, assignments and assessments in an organized, consistent and timely manner. The most varied responses from parents and middle school students pertained to time spent each day on at-home learning. More than half of the respondents feel that the program is working fine as is. A smaller percentage feel that the amount of work is excessive, while an equally smaller percentage feel that there is just not enough work being given. Honestly, this feedback is consistent with the feedback we get about homework when school is in session. Most manage the rigor. Some think it is too much. Others think it is not enough. So, as administrators trying to be responsive to most and affirmed by expert advice, we feel that the current parameter regarding the amount of time targeted for daily at-home learning is about right. Again, please reach out to your teacher, principal or counselor if you continue to struggle in this area. We are trying to make this work for everybody.
Of great concern to some students and an even greater number of parents are grades. In my last weekly message, I reassured all parents that students would be treated fairly and that no student would be penalized for circumstances beyond his/her control. In spite of that reassurance and based on the emails we continue to receive, many are still very anxious and stressed over grades. So, I will be more specific about how grades acquired during this period will be managed.
Before doing so, it is important to acknowledge that some students care more about their work than others. Some students give their best effort regardless of any grading policy. Other students put forth little effort doing just enough to get by. Many have a work ethic somewhere in between. Thus, parents must decide for themselves if and how they will share this grading policy with their children. With that, a student’s summative grade for the duration of the period of school closure will be the GREATER of two scores: 1) the grade earned during the period of school closure; or, 2) the average of the first three quarters of the school year. Most importantly, there is an expectation of participation with authentic effort in at-home learning. A student will not be penalized for circumstances beyond his/her control. However, a student who simply chooses not to participate with authentic effort in the at-home learning program is subject to consequence. Once again, we have asked teachers to notify parents if it becomes evident to them that a student is not participating with authentic effort. All we ask for right now is a best effort!
While teachers will continue to assess student work produced during the at-home learning program, there will be three major changes regarding assessments for the fourth quarter. First, there will be no mid-quarter progress reports. Parents and students can monitor progress on CANVAS daily reaching out with questions for teachers via email or during a teacher’s office hours. Second, there will be no fourth quarter exams for middle school students. Given the unusual conditions of this fourth quarter, it would not make sense nor be fair to the students to administer exams including material covered during these unusual times. Third, the standardized tests (ACT Aspire) administered annually to students in grades 3-7 will not be administered this school year.
As the Easter weekend approaches, I look forward to participating in the Holy Week services in some remote manner. But I am also saddened that I will not be able to gather with my extended family for the annual dyeing of eggs, the family Easter egg hunt, getting all dressed up for Easter Sunday Mass, partaking in the hearty Easter Sunday family bar-b-que including a banquet of delicious food, and joining in the family card game Easter Sunday night. I suppose we will get creative. Likely, Lisa and I will dye a few eggs. I will probably even have her hide some of them around the house so I can get my Easter egg hunt fix. She will hate that – ha ha. I will bar-b-que for two. And if I know my extended family, we will gather on Zoom to play some games and to spend some time “together.” Though it won’t be the same as Easters gone by or those to come, we will do the best we can to make it one to remember. I am sure you will do the same. On behalf of the Brothers, the administration and all at Christian Brothers School, may you and your family have a blessed Holy Week and Happy Easter!
Live Jesus In Our Hearts,