March 13, 2020 was supposed to be an ordinary early release Friday at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Bend. The school’s teachers participated in a workshop that afternoon on the specific developmental needs of boys. Then, as the danger surrounding the spread of coronavirus became more apparent, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered the state’s schools to be closed for at least two weeks.
The teachers spent their spring breaks preparing packets of paperwork, anticipating a month-long closure. They worked together to rapidly adopt Google Classroom across all grade levels for easy student-teacher communication, and were introduced to Zoom for online whole group and individualized instruction. By the end of the extended spring break the online platform for St. Francis School was fully operational. Luckily, the school had already established a technology-rich environment for its students: Every student in the first through eighth grades uses a Chromebook, so all of the students were familiar with their devices and could begin instruction immediately.
Middle school students and their parents expressed gratitude when they were told their assignments would continue to be graded. They met with each core subject teacher for at least 25 minutes per day. Band students prepared for and produced a virtual ensemble. The rocketry elective students eagerly awaited the SpaceX Dragon launch. Third and fourth graders wrote “thank you” notes to our local doctors and nurses. Storylines in fifth and first grades were modified and completed. Religion, Art, Music, and Spanish instructors provided learning content and office hours so that students could check in on their favorite subjects.
“The hardest hit enrollment area,” according to Julie Manion, head of the Administrative Team, “was the early childhood wing. Several parents of three- and four-year-olds did not wish to have their children online for extended periods while they had to supervise the activity. The problem was not the product but the delivery for our youngest learners. Happily, they are returning to their regular classrooms this fall.”
St. Francis School is planning for a full curriculum with small class sizes on a traditional schedule in the fall of 2020. We will continue the 84-year-old mission of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School to educate the whole child in a Christ-centered community, valuing service, leadership and academic excellence.
To learn more, please visit stfrancisschool.net.