Diocesan schools quickly transition to remote learning

FALL RIVER, Mass. – Just over a week ago, students attending Catholic schools in the Diocese of Fall River were planning Confirmations, First Communions, retreats, graduation ceremonies, and proms as they gathered in the halls and classrooms of their respective schools. Within 24 hours, the schedule and routine they had always relied upon was suddenly turned upside down due to the threats of the Coronavirus. 

Fortunately, the diocesan and school planning for extended snow days years ago has paid off, as all 22 Catholic schools were able to quickly and seamlessly convert to a remote learning environment — which includes online learning for older students and packets of curriculum for the early grades. 

“We are so blessed to have dedicated school leaders and teachers who work in our schools as a vocation,” said Stephen A. Perla, superintendent of Catholic schools. “Their commitment to the education of students is unlike any other educational system, especially in this very challenging and uncertain time. The feedback from families has been overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic for this ‘new way of life.’ Times of uncertainty are difficult on children who may not fully understand what is happening. Being able to interact with their teachers and classmates, even virtually, brings a sense of normalcy and structure to their days.” 

Steve Pereira, father of two children in New Bedford Catholic schools, said: “We’d like to thank you for your effort, caring, and dedication to maintaining an active learning environment during this unprecedented challenging time for our family and for yours. Your quick turnaround to provide a remote solution for our children helps maintain continuity and a sense of normalcy where it is so desperately needed. We are again reminded that we made the right choice more than a decade ago to send our children to Catholic schools. The family atmosphere and genuine caring of the faculty and staff has always been a primary reason to entrust our children’s education to St. Joseph’s, and you are no less a shining light during these cloudy times.” 

Lisa Levie, parent of a Holy Trinity School student, agreed. “You guys are doing awesome! No down time, no extra weeks off, and we are all up and learning, while other schools are scrambling to figure it out … we are ahead of the curve and rocking it! I am so proud of all my kid’s teachers for all their hard work!” 

Julia Almeida, mother of two sons at Bishop Stang High School, added, “I just wanted to send you a quick note commending you and the entire staff at Bishop Stang for organizing and doing such a fantastic job in such a short amount of time. Bishop Stang is the only school in the area that I know of — both private and public — that was able to put this together last week. Both of my sons love the online classes and love the socializing with their peers online before and after school. Again, we are so appreciative and impressed with the swift efforts of the entire staff at Bishop Stang during a very difficult and stressful time.  

Wendy and Joe O’Keefe summed it up this way: “We want to say how grateful we are for the structure, commitment, and unbelievably speedy planning St. John Paul II High School pulled off for our son and all of the students. I cannot imagine what it would be like without the structure and interaction, even if it’s just virtual. I am also working from home and trying to juggle it all. Just monitoring the kids has been a challenge, if I had to home-school them right now I don’t know what I would do. That all of us have an Internet connection, computers, dedicated teachers and staff is so humbling. We are so unbelievably lucky and blessed.” 

Should the statewide closure of schools last much longer than a few weeks, the Diocese of Fall River Catholic schools are prepared to continue the full academic agenda, ensuring these students do not lose out on critical learning skills that could have a longer term impact on their future education. 

For more information about the Catholic Schools Alliance, please go to www.catholicschoolsalliance.org

As a prime example of how Catholic school students are staying connected online, be sure to check out this wonderful video of members of the Bishop Stang High School “virtual” chorus singing The Turtles’ classic, “Happy Together!” It’s sure to make you smile …

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